Print 91 comment(s) - last by Icelight.. on Oct 5 at 1:04 PM

AT&T Legal Policy threatens to cancel service for criticizing AT&T and its affiliates

AT&T is one of the largest providers of mobile phone, home phone and internet access in the United States. In many areas, AT&T is the only choice for phone and data services. AT&T has updated its legal policy with new standards, which if enforced, could leave customers without service.

The new legal policy takes away a customer’s right to criticize AT&T without the fear of losing their service. In many rural areas where the only phone provider and Internet service provider is AT&T, this effectively means that any criticism of AT&T could leave them without data service. The section of the AT&T Legal Policy that takes away the customers constitutional right to free speech reads:

5.1 Suspension/Termination… [AT&T] may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.

Some will say that AT&T has the right to refuse service to anyone. At the same time, others will say that refusing service to someone for simply criticizing AT&T is infringing on the right to free speech. For many Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Many business professionals work from home and use broadband Internet access to connect to corporate networks. For those that are tied in with AT&T’s service (by choice or because there are no other options available), one should be careful not to step on AT&T’s toes or face disconnection.

Another item of note is that if AT&T decides to disconnect your service for any reason, they can delete any files you have, including emails, without notification. What is not clear from the policy is if criticizing any AT&T service can result in termination of your AT&T data service. If you get an iPhone and complain in comments here at DailyTech because the update breaks your unlocked iPhone, could you lose your AT&T data services?

Updated 10/2/2007
AT&T has issued the following statement with regards to the above policy:

AT&T respects its subscribers' rights to voice their opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. However, we retain the right to disassociate ourselves from websites and messages explicitly advocating violence, or any message that poses a threat to children (e.g. child pornography or exploitation). We do not terminate customer service solely because a customer speaks negatively about AT&T. This policy is not new and it's not unique to AT&T.

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Let's Test That Theory
By TomZ on 10/1/2007 4:44:57 PM , Rating: 5
AT&T sucks.

Testing, testing. Hello, can you still hear me?

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Quiescent on 10/1/2007 4:52:32 PM , Rating: 4
'Fraid not. AT&T must have been the assholes they are again.

Not our fault they tied ends with Apple, with crappy plans they have to offer. AT&T has probably taken some bruising from iRate iPhone users.

I actually did some timely research before I am to get my cellphone. I find that T-Mobile and Cricket would be the two I would go with. AT&T's plans are too expensive for what little they have to offer. And Alltel is bound to have something up their sleeves with their plans.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By LogicallyGenius on 10/2/2007 10:26:23 AM , Rating: 2
I think there should be a mass movement where all the ATnT customers Yell at A TnT at the same time same day and lets see if they can afford to loose that many customers.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By euclidean on 10/2/2007 12:32:40 PM , Rating: 4
Sprint ftw. T-mobile...great company, but you must not do any traveling to rural areas, or like to go camping/hiking and such if you think they're the best. I'd much rather have a company with crappy customer service that has great coverage all over the place. But that is just me I guess, cause I really don't have any issues that I would have to call the customer service about anyways...

I'll agree with you about Alltel, they're a regional service provider, meaning if you're out of their coverage area, you'll have a hard time getting service or you get charged roaming out the ass, unless of course you pay extra for that no roaming :\

The one thing I haven't seen anyone say about AT&T yet though, is how would they know it's you saying the bad stuff about them? They'd have to be really invading your privacy to figure that one out..

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By dgingeri on 10/2/2007 11:26:29 PM , Rating: 2
Driving from Denver to Chicago, about half the trip is without Sprint service, as is about 2/3 of the state of Nebraska. I know this because I had a Sprint phone and frequently drove from Denver to Chicago and back again, along with having a contract ob in western Nebraska. Sprint's customer service is ok, but not great.

T-moblie has service in western Nebraska, and all along the highways all the way between Denver and Chicago. However, their customer service and warranty coverage of their phones totally sucks. If your phone dies from a hardware malfunction, best to get another one. Otherwise, you end up talking to their support for weeks and get nowhere.

I found ATT to have the best service overall, with decent customer service and coverage. The service plans were a little bit pricier, but with the coverage and customer service advantage, it was worth it.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By audiomaniaca on 10/3/2007 8:44:40 AM , Rating: 1



RE: Let's Test That Theory
By AlphaVirus on 10/3/2007 12:52:09 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure what you mean about the Tmobile and Sprint, when I had Sprint being in the city limits (Houston) it would drop like a hot potatoe. No matter where I was, on the street, in an office building, AT HOME, it would drop calls constantly. I eventually grew tired of this and went with Tmobile and have had 0 dropped calls since March of this year. I have had trips to multipls states and even while raining the phone never dropped at all.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By weskurtz0081 on 10/3/2007 8:28:44 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree with you about T-Mobile. I have been using T-Mobile for about 4 years now and it's been pretty damn good. I get coverage in areas that Cingular (now AT&T) doesn't get coverage. Of course there are some areas where the coverage does drop off, but while driving it only last for a minute or so then I pick a tower up. I have found my coverage to be much more consistent with T-Mobile than the coverage I had with Cingular. And, I am talking about coverage out in the middle of no where as well. All the way out in Fayetteville Texas I still get service.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Murst on 10/1/2007 4:55:21 PM , Rating: 5
AT&T sucks

I knew we couldn't disagree on everything! :)

Now, as to free speech... I just don't see how this has anything to do with it. If I had a customer, and they were bad-mouthing my business, I certainly wouldn't service them either.

I doubt AT&T could apply this termination policy to a regulated market where they have a monopoly on residential services.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By aikend on 10/1/2007 11:35:45 PM , Rating: 4
Then it's a good thing you don't have a customer!

Me, as an actual business owner, I would sooner just close the business than tell my customers "better not rely on our services. If you ever say anything bad about us, even if it's justified, we'll cancel your account." I mean, what kind of idiot would continue to do business with me under those terms?

We've established that you're not a business owner. But let me ask you this as a consumer: would *you* contract for a service that you need to be reliable if the provider said you can't criticize them? Or would you look for a competitor who will be reliable even if you end up being dissatisfied for one reason or another?

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Murst on 10/2/2007 1:05:58 AM , Rating: 2
All my employers were either small or medium sized businesses. Although I've never had to experience a client voicing their dissatisfaction, I have seen the owner refuse service to a client (I won't get into details, but the client has previously done damage to a friend of the owner). As a small business, it is extremely important to have a good reputation among your clients, so even though this client was going to bring in money, it was not worth the risk.

As a business owner, I'm sure you'd attempt to resolve any issues your customers have with you. But what if an issue could not be resolved, and the customer went on to criticize your business publicly, while maintaining their contract with you. What if the customer then went on to your other customers, and attempted to convince them to switch to your competitor? Would you still service that customer?

To answer your question: If a business was so bad that I felt the need to criticize it publicly, I certainly wouldn't be using their services when I do criticize them. Such a policy would not affect me at all, and I wouldn't even consider it when evaluating a service.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Scott66 on 10/3/2007 9:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
What would you do if you had a 2 year contract with that company providing you with crappy service or you had to pay some of your hard earned revenue (wages) to cancel the contract.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By mdogs444 on 10/3/2007 10:41:19 PM , Rating: 2
If you can prove that the services offered were violations of the contract you signed, then you wont have to pay to cancel it.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By encryptkeeper on 10/2/2007 9:04:46 AM , Rating: 2
Me, as an actual business owner, I would sooner just close the business than tell my customers "better not rely on our services. If you ever say anything bad about us, even if it's justified, we'll cancel your account." I mean, what kind of idiot would continue to do business with me under those terms?

An idiot that has no other option for service. AT&T would LOVE to be back to the pre-1984 days where they dominated virtually all telecommunications in the US.

At the same time, others will say that refusing service to someone for simply criticizing AT&T is infringing on the right to free speech.

And those people are right.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Murst on 10/2/2007 10:09:58 AM , Rating: 5
Sorry, but you have got no clue about what the right to free speech is, at least in the US of A.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment's right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government, be it federal or state. Now, please explain how this "freedom of speech" is infringed upon by AT&T.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By euclidean on 10/2/2007 12:48:58 PM , Rating: 2
This is a company that you signed a contract with...not the Government.

Though i do agree it's BS, I still see where the company is coming from, and if you don't like it, you have the freedom to leave that company.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By on 10/2/2007 3:08:21 PM , Rating: 1
This may surprise you, but a 'contract' doesn't override basic constitutional rights no matter how much AT&T may wish it could.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Spivonious on 10/2/2007 3:39:23 PM , Rating: 3
AT&T is not having the police come out and arrest you for badmouthing them. They are cancelling your service with them. It is completely within their rights to do so. Read the first amendment again and show me where it says anything about a company restricting what you can say.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Oregonian2 on 10/2/2007 3:43:43 PM , Rating: 3
True, but what AT&T is doing doesn't do that. Free speech means you can speak your mind and continue doing so. You aren't kept from doing so without being stopped from doing so. However it doesn't prevent others from responding and expressing their countering opinions using their free speech rights (something Hollywood actors/actresses don't seem to understand, with their heads in the clouds). If for instance, a Newspaper refuses to print an ad you want to place. THEY are the publisher of their newspaper and anything they refuse to print is their right to print/publish what they want to. That paper is their "speech". Free speech in the constitution does not require other entities to help you get your free speech out to others, just that you can do it however you can manage. AT&T is not required to assist you get your opinions out due to constitutional mandate, although business mandates may require them to do so. I'm not a lawyer, but I play one in forums. :-)

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By SoCalBoomer on 10/2/2007 4:37:34 PM , Rating: 2
That's true - and if AT&T stops your service, you're still able to say whatever you want, wherever you want, however you want - you just can't use THEIR service to do so.

Doesn't override basic constitutional rights at all. Just means that they aren't assisting you in your speech - which isn't guaranteed.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/3/2007 12:05:32 PM , Rating: 2
However, EVEN IF THEY COULD PREVENT YOU FROM speechifying agin them, the first amendment would still not protect you. The first amendment only protects you from the FEDERAL or STATE governments from preventing your free speech, not private companies. There may be other grounds for a case in contract or even tort, but not on constitutional grounds. But, this could potentially be a Title VII case in that event, in that a group of people were attempting to prevent your exercising your constitutional rights, but not a first amendment case.

HOWEVER, if AT&T controlled your only avenue to free speech (which they probably don't but the author tries to assert here - poor rural customers) then IF a court found that AT&T was not barring free speech and could do what they want with this contract language, the fact that THE COURT rendered such a decision COULD be construed as the government acting to abridge your rights to freedom of speech, and THAT ruling might be appealed on first amendment grounds.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Icelight on 10/5/2007 1:04:22 PM , Rating: 2
The First Amendment's right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government, be it federal or state.

Oh, okay, so it is fine then for a business to not hire someone solely because they are of a certain religion, or skin colour. They're not government!

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By crystal clear on 10/2/2007 11:06:10 AM , Rating: 2
If I had a customer, and they were bad-mouthing my business, I certainly wouldn't service them either.

If yours is a small shop yes- but if you are somebody big as AT&T you do the following.

NO - you respond with appropriate press release-they call it Public relations.

You cut their services = its viewed as an admission of guilt.

Then you would appear like Apple ! evil....

Worst case scenario you take them to court.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By sintaxera on 10/1/2007 8:56:01 PM , Rating: 4
My sentiments exactly. I only use Bellsouth DSL and it SUCKS, REALLY, REALLY, SUCKS!!!! Testing, Testing, Testing....

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By hrah20 on 10/2/07, Rating: 0
RE: Let's Test That Theory
By crystal clear on 10/2/2007 4:17:02 AM , Rating: 2
Yes-hello- hello-can barely hear you !

Another class action suit on the way !

Hit them where it hurts-MONEY !

Out & Over.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By AlexWade on 10/2/2007 3:51:44 PM , Rating: 2
Wow. A lot of AT&T hating.

Every cell phone company sucks. End of story.

Would you prefer Verizon which cripples their phones and wants to charge $2 for a ringtone while they disable any music transferring feature?

Or Sprint/Nextel, which charges extra for call details, nickel and dimes you death, endure rude customer service, and have a difficult time RECEIVING calls?

Or T-Mobile with dead zones in far too many places?

And yes, AT&T. Since I have them, my gripe with them is poor customer service. They are just inept.

And the list goes on. Every cell phone carrier in the US sucks. Local carriers are better, but still they suck. The best local carrier I found is SunCom which charges a flat fee that includes all taxes for unlimited calls anywhere in the US. But T-Mobile just bought them.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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