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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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In other news
By tspinning on 10/1/2007 5:50:25 PM , Rating: 2
China has given AT&T an exclusive deal as the countries new ISP, and yes, if you don't like it, they can and will shoot you.

In fact, if they think you don't like it, they can and will shoot you.

RE: In other news
By justinmcg67 on 10/1/2007 9:14:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah pretty much. But the point here is that AT&T is protecting itself. This isn't "freedom of speech". As I recall, every big corporation takes criticism very well, as in, if you have a complaint, please tell us. That sort of thing. I mean, if you don't believe me go to a Fast Food restaurant and buy something...anything. Look on the receipt, somewhere in there it will say something to the degree of the service they have provided, and if you have any comments or feedback, to usually dial some 1-800 number.

So i doubt that they'll cut you off from service if you say, "AT&T's service blows." Just my $0.02. =)

RE: In other news
By DeepBlue1975 on 10/2/2007 1:29:39 PM , Rating: 2
If AT&T's service blows, then there should be at least some girls in there performing the job of blowing...
For the sake of clarifying my doubts, I'd like to meet them and see how they are getting their jobs done, so that I can tell if their ways come in handy to the customers or if they really blow.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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