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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

AT&T Inc.
Formerly
  • Southwestern Bell Corporation
  • (1983–1995)
  • SBC Communications
  • (1995–2005)
Public
Traded as
Industry
Predecessor
FoundedOctober 5, 1983; 35 years ago (1983-10-05)[1]
HeadquartersWhitacre Tower, Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Products
RevenueIncrease US$190.546 billion (2017)
Decrease US$20.949 billion (2017)[2]
Increase US$29.450 billion (2017)[2]
Total assetsIncrease US$444.097 billion (2017)[2]
Total equityIncrease US$142.007 billion (2017)[2]
Number of employees
273,210 (2018)[3]
Divisions
Subsidiaries
Websiteatt.com

AT&T Inc. is an American multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered at Whitacre Tower in Downtown Dallas, Texas.[4] It is the world's largest telecommunications company, the second largest provider of mobile telephone services, and the largest provider of fixed telephone services in the United States through AT&T Communications. Since June 14, 2018, it is also the parent company of mass media conglomerate WarnerMedia, making it the world's largest media and entertainment company in terms of revenue.[5] As of 2018, AT&T is ranked #9 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.[6]

AT&T began its history as Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, a subsidiary of the Bell Telephone Company, founded by Alexander Graham Bell in 1880. The Bell Telephone Company evolved into American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1885, which later rebranded as AT&T Corporation. The 1982 United States v. AT&T antitrust lawsuit resulted in the divestiture of AT&T Corporation's ("Ma Bell") subsidiaries or Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs, or "Baby Bells"), resulting in several independent companies including Southwestern Bell Corporation; the latter changed its name to SBC Communications Inc. in 1995. In 2005, SBC purchased its former parent AT&T Corporation and took on its branding, with the merged entity naming itself AT&T Inc. and using its iconic logo and stock-trading symbol. In 2006, AT&T Inc. acquired BellSouth, the last independent Baby Bell company, making their formerly joint venture Cingular Wireless (which had acquired AT&T Wireless in 2004) wholly owned and rebranding it as AT&T Mobility.

The current AT&T reconstitutes much of the former Bell System, and includes ten of the original 22 Bell Operating Companies along with the original long distance division.[7]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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Transcription

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century was the telephone, and it is safe to say that the world would not be the same without it. That’s why today we’ll be exploring the company that built the American telephone system and that remains the world’s largest telecom business to this day, AT&T. This video is brought to you by Tab for a Cause, a free browser extension that donates money to charity with every new tab open without costing you a single dime. While there is some controversy over the true inventor of the telephone, it is Alexander Graham Bell that was awarded the patent and it was his company that would go on to spread it across America. The phone came to life on March 10, 1876 and the first phrase ever whispered down the wires was “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you”, spoken by Bell to his assistant. Just a year later, he had already found several financiers to back his invention, including J. P. Morgan, and thus in 1877 they set up the Bell Telephone Company and then the New England Telephone company in 1878. Their model was to license the telephone to local operating companies around Chicago, Boston and New York. Bell himself was much more focussed on his work as an inventor and by 1879, he had sold his share in both companies to a group from Boston, who consolidated the two parts into the National Bell Telephone Company. If all these different names sound confusing, well, I see your point, but the real history of AT&T is all about whether it’s one company or many. If you look at the largest telecom businesses in the world, you’ll see that most of them were state-run telephone operators. China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica; all these and others started out as government entities that were originally run by the post office. But the US never had a state run phone operator, partly because it goes against the nature of American values, but also because, for America, the telephone service was a business first and utility second. So, why did the Bell company license out the operating service rather than building it’s own networks and having complete control? It’s not like they had any rivals and they did own the patent. In short, it was simply a matter of time and capital. Bell’s patents weren’t indefinite, so the Bell company had a limited time to cover as much area as possible, before competitors could pop up. By licensing, it could avoid spending the millions of dollars necessary to set up the telephone service in a new area. Instead, it gave 5- to 10-year contracts to independent operators, who would pay the Bell company $20 per phone per year and then also give it the right to buy the operator's property once the contract was over. It was actually a pretty sweet deal: the company didn’t have to invest a single dime in telephone lines and would get a fixed income, with which to buy out the operator in less than a decade. But Bell had a more important place to spend its money, so in the end the company only bought about a 30-50% stake in most operators. So what was this other project Bell was investing in? Well, part of the deal with the operators was that they could expand in their own territory, but could not link up with other operators, regardless of whether they were a part of the Bell system. This meant that there was no effective way to make long-distance calls, and this is what the Bell company was interested in. It was the only company rich enough to build its own network of long-distance telephone lines, and although in doing so it ended up with a ton of debt, it now had a complete monopoly on the long-distance phone service. The Bell company set up a subsidiary to manage this new network in 1885, and it called it the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, or AT&T for short. Over time, the long-distance network would become the backbone of the Bell company. Even after all of Bell’s patents had expired, AT&T were the only company that could provide service across the whole nation. Of course, local independent operators started popping up left and right and by 1907, they actually ran just over half of America’s telephones. By that point, around 20% of American homes had a telephone, so there was a lot of demand for the service. But while you could use your local operator to call your boss or shout complaints at the mayor, but the only way to make calls outside the city, was through AT&T. Of course, this early network wasn’t particularly good: the service quality was downright abysmal, not to mention the customer support. Because of this public relations crisis and AT&T’s immense debt, J. P. Morgan was able to take control of the company and to instate his own man, Theodore Newton Vail, as president. He set about restoring AT&T’s image, and also decided to invest heavily in research and development, setting up the now-famous Bell Laboratories in 1925. Bell Labs, by the way, is now owned by Nokia and it’s been one of the world’s leading scientific institutes for almost a century. It is responsible for 8 Nobel Prize winning works, including the creation of the transistor, the “C” programming language, and the discovery of cosmic background radiation, one of the key pieces of evidence for the Big Bang Theory. But back to AT&T. By the start of the Second World War, they had $5 billion in assets, which was light years ahead of any other competitor. Thanks to aggressive acquisition tactics, they controlled a huge majority of US phones and ran 98% of long distance lines. They played a big part in the war effort, thanks to the research done through Bell Labs and Western Electric, an early phone manufacturer who they had purchased in 1881. The war effort paid off for them too, since it caused a big jump in long distance calls, which continued even after the fighting was over. After the war came the space race, where Bell Labs was once again a major player, this time with satellite technology. Their communications satellite Telstar 1 was the first to relay television and telephone calls through space, as well as giving the first transatlantic live feed. They worked hand in hand with NASA, but despite their heavily involvement with the government on research and development, there were some big question marks over their business practices, especially around how they controlled the telecoms market. An agreement was signed in 1956 that limited AT&T to the telephone business alone and that also required it to license its patents to anyone who was interested. In 1968, a further ruling by the FCC forced AT&T to allow third parties to connect to their network, in an aim to stop their monopoly over the long-distance telephone lines. This eventually lead to the creation of the answering machine, the fax machine and the modem so, see, the FCC wasn’t always bad. But even after giving away access like that, AT&T still had huge power over the network, and so the government fought a long and bitter battle in the courts that would take 8 years to settle. Finally, in 1982, United States v. AT&T ended with the breakup of the AT&T network, or Bell System as it was called, on antitrust grounds. A total of seven independent companies were carved out of the former AT&T, leaving it a shell of its former self. These new companies came to be known as the Baby Bells. Two of them went on to become Verizon. Another one, called Southwestern Bell Corporation, eventually bought up three of the other Baby Bells and the weakened AT&T itself. In the end, although most of the Baby Bells ended up back together, the breakup did give them a unique opportunity. You see, the 1956 agreement that made AT&T stick to telephone business had prevented them from entering the computer market. So, after 1982, while AT&T did lose power over regional networks, they kept the long distance operations and, most importantly, could finally take a bite at computers...no pun intended. Of course, it wasn’t easy and the next 20 years saw the company constantly changing strategies in order to keep up with the lightning pace of development happening in the computer industry. Its long distance operations were slowly eroded, partly through new legislation, but also thanks to the development of fibre optics, which, coincidentally, was inspired by Alexander Graham Bell’s photophone that had transmitted a voice message using light, all the way back in 1880. By 2005, when Southwestern Bell Corporation finally bought its former parent for $16 billion, AT&T was like roadkill picked apart by buzzards. Only their consumer and business services had remained; their Wireless, Broadband and telephone systems were gone, not to mention Bell Labs. So, the AT&T we know today is really the work of SBC, simply rebranded under this more famous name. Today, the company’s new direction is wireless. Through a series of acquisitions, AT&T became the second largest cellular provider in the US, just barely behind Verizon. In 2015 they also acquired DirecTV, a satellite television service providing some of the biggest channels such as ESPN, HBO, and numerous major news networks. They spent almost $50 billion to get it, but of course the real elephant in the room is AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner. It’s not very clear whether US regulators are gonna approve it, but if they do, the combined company would be the second largest broadband provider in the US. On top of that it would also have ownership of Warner Bros, DC Comics, CNN and a bunch of other major properties. Naturally, monopoly concerns have been raised by pretty much everyone, but this time around AT&T have definitely learnt their lesson. Since 2015, they have spent close to $30 million on political donations and today they have over a hundred registered lobbyists. It’s pretty obvious that AT&T really want this deal to go through, but for now we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Now, before you click off this video and open a new tab, I want you to check out Tab for a Cause. It’s a free browser extension that modifies your new tab page so that every time you open a new tab, you raise between a tenth and a third of cent for your favorite charity. That might not seem much, but it actually adds up. In fact, so far Tab for a Cause has raised almost $400,000 for charity. This week they’re focusing on Puerto Rico, which as you know was hit very badly by Hurricane Maria and will likely remain without power for months to come. With Tab for a Cause you can help the recovery of Puerto Rico, and numerous other charities across the world, by simply browsing the web as you’ve always done. When it comes to charity, every little bit helps, and collectively we can make a big difference. That’s why I want you to visit the link in the description and to download their free browser extension. I’d love to hear which charities you’ll be supporting, so do let me know on Reddit, Twitter or Facebook. Thanks for watching, and a big thank you to all our patrons for supporting us, and as always: stay smart.

Contents

History

Origin and growth (1882–1981)

AT&T can trace its origin back to the original Bell Telephone Company founded by Alexander Graham Bell after his patenting of the telephone.[8] One of that company's subsidiaries was American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), established in 1885,[9] which acquired the Bell Company on December 31, 1899, for legal reasons, leaving AT&T as the main company. AT&T established a network of subsidiaries in the United States and Canada that held a government-authorized phone service monopoly, formalized with the Kingsbury Commitment, throughout most of the twentieth century. This monopoly was known as the Bell System,[10] and during this period, AT&T was also known by the nickname Ma Bell.[11] For periods of time, the former AT&T was the world's largest phone company.

Breakup and reformation (1982–2004)

In 1982, U.S. regulators broke up the AT&T monopoly, requiring AT&T to divest its regional subsidiaries and turning them each into individual companies. These new companies were known as Regional Bell Operating Companies, or more informally, Baby Bells.[12] AT&T continued to operate long distance services, but as a result of this breakup, faced competition from new competitors such as MCI and Sprint.

Southwestern Bell was one of the companies created by the breakup of AT&T Corp. The architect of divestiture for Southwestern Bell was Robert G. Pope. The company soon started a series of acquisitions. This includes the 1987 acquisition of Metromedia mobile business and the acquisition of several cable companies in the early 1990s. In the later half of the 1990s, the company acquired several other telecommunications companies, including some Baby Bells, while selling its cable business. During this time, the company changed its name to SBC Communications. By 1998, the company was in the top 15 of the Fortune 500, and by 1999 the company was part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (lasting through 2015).

Purchase of former parent and acquisitions (2005–2014)

In 2005, SBC purchased AT&T for $16 billion. After this purchase, SBC adopted the better-known AT&T name and brand, with the original AT&T Corp. still existing as the long-distance landline subsidiary of the merged company. The current AT&T claims the original AT&T Corp.'s history (dating to 1885) as its own, though its corporate structure only dates from 1983.[13] It also retains SBC's pre-2005 stock price history, and all regulatory filings prior to 2005 are for Southwestern Bell/SBC, not AT&T Corp.

In September 2013, AT&T Inc. announced it would expand into Latin America through a collaboration with América Móvil.[14] In December 2013, AT&T announced plans to sell its Connecticut wireline operations to Stamford-based Frontier Communications.[15]

Recent developments (2014–present)

AT&T purchased the Mexican carrier Iusacell in late 2014,[16] and two months later purchased the Mexican wireless business of NII Holdings,[17] merging the two companies to create AT&T Mexico.

In July 2015, AT&T purchased DirecTV for $48.5 billion, or $67.1 billion including assumed debt,[18] subject to certain conditions.[19][20] AT&T subsequently announced plans to converge its existing U-verse home internet and IPTV brands with DirecTV, to create AT&T Entertainment.[21][22][23]

In an effort to increase its media holdings,[24][25][26] on October 22, 2016, AT&T announced a deal to buy Time Warner for $108.7 billion.[27][28][29]

AT&T also owns approximately a 2% stake in Canadian-domiciled entertainment company Lionsgate.[30]

On July 13, 2017, it was reported that AT&T would introduce a cloud-based DVR streaming service as part of its effort to create a unified platform across DirecTV and its DirecTV Now streaming service, with U-verse to be added soon.[31][32][33] In October 2018, it was announced that the service Is set to launch in 2019[34][35]

On September 12, 2017, it was reported that AT&T planned to launch a new cable TV-like service for delivery over-the-top over its own or a competitor's broadband network sometime next year.[36]

On November 20, 2017, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim filed a lawsuit for the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division to block the merger with Time Warner, saying it "will harm competition, result in higher bills for consumers and less innovation."[37][38] In order for AT&T to fully acquire Time Warner, the Department of Justice stated that the company must divest either DirecTV or Turner Broadcasting System.[39]

As of 2017, AT&T is the world's largest telecommunications company.[40] AT&T is also the second largest provider of mobile telephone services and the largest provider of fixed telephone services in the United States.[41]

On March 7, 2018, the company prepared to sell a minority stake of DirecTV Latin America through an IPO, creating a new holding company for those assets named Vrio Corp.[42][43] However, on April 18, 2018, just a day before the public debut of Vrio, AT&T canceled the IPO due to market conditions.[44][45]

On June 12, 2018, AT&T was given permission by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon to go ahead with its $85 billion deal for Time Warner. The DOJ had attempted to stop the merger fearing it would harm competition.[46] The merger closed two days after, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary and division of AT&T with a new name, WarnerMedia, announced the next day.[47]

Three months after completing the acquisition and a year after reorganising into four units, AT&T made it biggest move since 1984, reclassifying itself into a pure holding conglomerate and merging it RSNs, stakes in GSN, and Other, AT&T Audience into WarnerMedia's Turner, renaming DIRECTV Latin America to Vrio which is now part of the renamed AT&T Latin America (formerly AT&T International), moving wireline into Entertainment group, and renaming Consumer Mobility to simply Mobiliity.[48][49]

Landline operating companies

Of the eight companies that were part of the Breakup of the Bell System, five are a part of the current AT&T:[50]

Chart of Baby Bells

AT&T Corporation
Broken into the "Baby Bells"
AT&T Corp.AmeritechBell Atlantic
renamed Verizon Communications
BellSouthNYNEXPacific TelesisSouthwestern Bell
renamed AT&T Inc.
US West
GTEAirTouch
Spun off 1994
Qwest
Verizon CommunicationsAT&T Inc.CenturyLink

Former operating companies

The following companies have become defunct or were sold under SBC/AT&T ownership:

Future of rural landlines

AT&T stated that it would declare the intentions for its rural landlines on November 7, 2012.[53] AT&T had previously announced that it was considering a sale of its rural landlines, which are not wired for AT&T's U-verse service; however, it has also stated that it may keep the business after all.

AT&T was not the first Baby Bell to sell off rural landlines. Ameritech sold some of its Wisconsin lines to CenturyTel in 1998; BellSouth sold some of its lines to MebTel in the 2000s; U S WEST sold many historically Bell landlines to Lynch Communications and Pacific Telecom in the 1990s; Verizon sold many of its New England lines to FairPoint in 2008 and its West Virginia operations to Frontier Communications in 2010.

On October 25, 2014, Frontier Communications took over control of the AT&T landline network in Connecticut after being approved by state utility regulators. The deal was worth about $2 billion, and included Frontier inheriting about 2,500 of AT&T's employees and many of AT&T's buildings.[54]

Corporate structure

AT&T office in San Antonio, Texas, with new logo and orange  highlight from the former Cingular
AT&T office in San Antonio, Texas, with new logo and orange highlight from the former Cingular

AT&T Inc. has retained the holding companies it has acquired over the years resulting in the following corporate structure:

Facilities and regions

The company is headquartered at Whitacre Tower in downtown Dallas, Texas.[4] On June 27, 2008, AT&T announced that it would move its corporate headquarters from downtown San Antonio to One AT&T Plaza in downtown Dallas.[4][63] The company said that it moved to gain better access to its customers and operations throughout the world, and to the key technology partners, suppliers, innovation and human resources needed as it continues to grow, domestically and internationally.[64] AT&T Inc. previously relocated its corporate headquarters to San Antonio from St. Louis, Missouri, in 1992, when it was then named Southwestern Bell Corporation. The company's Telecom Operations group, which serves residential and regional business customers in 22 U.S. states, remains in San Antonio.[citation needed] Atlanta, Georgia, continues to be the headquarters for AT&T Mobility, with significant offices in Redmond, Washington, the former home of AT&T Wireless. Bedminster, New Jersey, is the headquarters for the company's Global Business Services group and AT&T Labs. St. Louis continues as home to the company's Directory operations, AT&T Advertising Solutions.[65]

AT&T offers also services in many locations throughout the Asia Pacific; its regional headquarters is located in Hong Kong.[66] The company is also active in Mexico, and it was announced on November 7, 2014, that Mexican carrier Iusacell is being acquired by AT&T.[16] The acquisition was approved in January 2015.[citation needed][67][68] On April 30, 2015, AT&T acquired wireless operations Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings (now AT&T Mexico).[69]

Corporate governance

AT&T's current board of directors as of November 2016:[70]

The current management as of June 2018 includes:[71]

Political involvement

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of 2018, AT&T is the fifteenth-largest donor to United States political campaigns,[72] and was the top American corporate donor in 2011,[73] having contributed more than US$47.7 million since 1990, 56% of which went to Republicans and 44% of which went to Democrats.[74] As an example, in 2005, AT&T was among 53 entities that contributed the maximum of $250,000 to the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.[75][76][77] Bill Leahy, representing AT&T, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).[78] ALEC is a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives that drafts and shares model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States.[79][80][81]

During the period of 1998 to 2010, the company expended US$130 million on lobbying in the United States.[73] A key political issue for AT&T has been the question of which businesses win the right to profit by providing broadband internet access in the United States.[82] The company has also lobbied in support of several federal bills. AT&T supported the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 3675; 113th Congress), a bill that would make a number of changes to procedures that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) follows in its rulemaking processes.[83] The FCC would have to act in a more transparent way as a result of this bill, forced to accept public input about regulations.[84] AT&T's Executive Vice President of Federal Relations, Tim McKone, said that the bill's "much needed institutional reforms will help arm the agency with the tools to keep pace with the Internet speed of today's marketplace. It will also ensure that outmoded regulatory practices for today's competitive marketplace are properly placed in the dustbin of history."[85]

In May 2018, reports emerged that AT&T made 12 monthly payments between January and December 2017 to Essential Consultants, a company set up by President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, totaling $600,000.[86] Although initial reports on May 8 mentioned only four monthly payments totaling $200,000,[87] documents obtained by The Washington Post on May 10 confirmed the figure of 12 payments, which had begun three days after the President was sworn into office.[88][89] AT&T confirmed the report the same day.[90] The report from The Washington Post, as well as additional reporting from Bloomberg, revealed the payments had been made for Cohen to "provide guidance" relating to the attempted $85 billion merger with Time Warner,[88][89] to gain information on the Trump administration's planned tax reforms, as well as about potential changes to net neutrality policies under the new FCC.[91] However, Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai denied Cohen ever inquired about net neutrality on AT&T's behalf.[90][92] A spokesperson for AT&T said that the company had been contacted by the Special Counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller regarding the payments, and had provided all the information requested in November and December 2017.[93][94]

Historical financial performance

The financial performance of the company is reported to shareholders on an annual basis and a matter of public record. The unit (except where noted) is billions of US dollars. Where performance has been restated, the most recent statement of performance from an annual report is used.[95][96][97][98]

Year 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Revenues 45.38 42.82 40.50 40.79 43.86 63.06 118.9 124.0 122.5 124.8 126.7 127.4 128.8 132.4 146.8 163.8
Net Income 7.008 5.653 8.505 5.887 4.768 7.356 11.95 12.87 12.12 19.09 3.944 7.264 18.25 6.224 13.69 13.33
Assets 96.42 95.17 102.0 110.3 145.6 270.6 275.6 265.2 268.3 268.5 270.3 272.3 277.8 292.8 402.7 403.8
Number of employees (thousands) 193.4 175.0 168.0 162.7 190.0 304.2 309.1 302.7 282.7 266.6 256.4 241.8 243.4 243.6 281.5 268.5

Criticism and controversies

Hemisphere database

The company maintains a database of call detail records of all telephone calls that have passed through its network since 1987. AT&T employees work at High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area offices (operated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy) in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston so data can be quickly turned over to law enforcement agencies. Records are requested via administrative subpoena, without the involvement of a court or grand jury.

Censorship

In September 2007, AT&T changed its legal policy to state that "AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service,[99] 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."[100] By October 10, 2007, AT&T had altered the terms and conditions for its Internet service to explicitly support freedom of expression by its subscribers, after an outcry claiming the company had given itself the right to censor its subscribers' transmissions.[101] Section 5.1 of AT&T's new terms of service now reads "AT&T respects freedom of expression and believes it is a foundation of our free society to express differing points of view. AT&T will not terminate, disconnect or suspend service because of the views you or we express on public policy matters, political issues or political campaigns."[102]

Privacy controversy

Diagram of how alleged wiretapping worked. From EFF court filings[103]
Diagram of how alleged wiretapping worked. From EFF court filings[103]

In 2006, the Electronic Frontier Foundation lodged a class action lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T, which alleged that AT&T had allowed agents of the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor phone and Internet communications of AT&T customers without warrants. If true, this would violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. AT&T has yet to confirm or deny that monitoring by the NSA is occurring. In April 2006, a retired former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, lodged an affidavit supporting this allegation.[104][105] The Department of Justice has stated it will intervene in this lawsuit by means of State Secrets Privilege.[106]

In July 2006, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California – in which the suit was filed – rejected a federal government motion to dismiss the case. The motion to dismiss, which invoked the State Secrets Privilege, had argued that any court review of the alleged partnership between the federal government and AT&T would harm national security. The case was immediately appealed to the Ninth Circuit. It was dismissed on June 3, 2009, citing retroactive legislation in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.[citation needed] [107]

In May 2006, USA Today reported that all international and domestic calling records had been handed over to the National Security Agency by AT&T, Verizon, SBC, and BellSouth for the purpose of creating a massive calling database.[108] The portions of the new AT&T that had been part of SBC Communications before November 18, 2005, were not mentioned.

On June 21, 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that AT&T had rewritten rules on its privacy policy. The policy, which took effect June 23, 2006, says that "AT&T – not customers – owns customers' confidential info and can use it 'to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.'"[109]

On August 22, 2007, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell confirmed that AT&T was one of the telecommunications companies that assisted with the government's warrantless wire-tapping program on calls between foreign and domestic sources.[110]

On November 8, 2007, Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician, told Keith Olbermann of MSNBC that all Internet traffic passing over AT&T lines was copied into a locked room at the company's San Francisco office – to which only employees with National Security Agency clearance had access.[111]

AT&T keeps for five to seven years a record of who text messages whom and the date and time, but not the content of the messages.[112]

AT&T has a one star privacy rating from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[113]

Intellectual property filtering

In January 2008, the company reported plans to begin filtering all Internet traffic which passes through its network for intellectual property violations.[114] Commentators in the media have speculated that if this plan is implemented, it would lead to a mass exodus of subscribers leaving AT&T,[115] although this is misleading as Internet traffic may go through the company's network anyway.[114] Internet freedom proponents used these developments as justification for government-mandated network neutrality.

Discrimination against local Public-access television channels

AT&T is accused by community media groups of discriminating against local Public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable TV channels, by "impictions that will severely restrict the audience".[116]

According to Barbara Popovic, Executive Director of the Chicago public-access service CAN-TV, the new AT&T U-verse system forces all Public-access television into a special menu system, denying normal functionality such as channel numbers, access to the standard program guide, and DVR recording.[116] The Ratepayer Advocates division of the California Public Utilities Commission reported: "Instead of putting the stations on individual channels, AT&T has bundled community stations into a generic channel that can only be navigated through a complex and lengthy process."[116]

Sue Buske (president of telecommunications consulting firm the Buske Group and a former head of the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers/Alliance for Community Media) argue that this is "an overall attack [...] on public access across the [United States], the place in the dial around cities and communities where people can make their own media in their own communities".[116]

Information security

In June 2010, a hacker group known as Goatse Security discovered a vulnerability within AT&T that could allow anyone to uncover email addresses belonging to customers of AT&T 3G service for the Apple iPad.[117] These email addresses could be accessed without a protective password.[118] Using a script, Goatse Security collected thousands of email addresses from AT&T.[117] Goatse Security informed AT&T about the security flaw through a third party.[119] Goatse Security then disclosed around 114,000 of these emails to Gawker Media, which published an article about the security flaw and disclosure in Valleywag.[117][119] Praetorian Security Group criticized the web application that Goatse Security exploited as "poorly designed".[117]

In April 2015, AT&T was fined $25 million over data security breaches, marking the largest ever fine issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for breaking data privacy laws. The investigation revealed the theft of details of approximately 280,000 people from call centres in Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines.[120][121]

Accusations of enabling fraud

In March 2012, the United States federal government announced a lawsuit against AT&T. The specific accusations state that AT&T "violated the False Claims Act by facilitating and seeking federal payment for IP Relay calls by international callers who were ineligible for the service and sought to use it for fraudulent purposes. The complaint alleges that, out of fears that fraudulent call volume would drop after the registration deadline, AT&T knowingly adopted a non-compliant registration system that did not verify whether the user was located within the United States. The complaint further contends that AT&T continued to employ this system even with the knowledge that it facilitated use of IP Relay by fraudulent foreign callers, which accounted for up to 95 percent of AT&T's call volume. The government's complaint alleges that AT&T improperly billed the TRS Fund for reimbursement of these calls and received millions of dollars in federal payments as a result."[122]

Racism

On April 28, 2015, AT&T announced that it had fired Aaron Slator, President of Content and Advertising Sales, for sending racist text messages.[123] Slator was also hit with a $100 million discrimination lawsuit, filed by African-American employee Knoyme King.[124] The day before that, protesters arrived at AT&T's headquarters in Dallas and its satellite offices in Los Angeles as well as at the home of CEO Randall Stephenson to protest alleged systemic racial policies. According to accounts, the protesters are demanding AT&T begin working with 100% black-owned media companies.[125]

Trademark violation

In June 2016, Citigroup sued AT&T for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition. The company had recently established a loyalty program under the brand AT&T Thanks, which Citigroup claims would cause consumer confusion as an infringement of its "ThankYou" and "Citi ThankYou" marks due to similar wording and visual design. Citi, which also provides a co-branded credit card for AT&T that links with its ThankYou rewards program, sought unspecified damages and the expungement of AT&T's trademark registration.[126][127]

The suit was dismissed in August 2016, with a judge ruling that there was a low likelihood of confusion between the two marks because the companies fall within different industries, and that consumers who use loyalty programs would be able to "clearly take into account the attributes associated with the products they purchase" and, thus, be able to distinguish them.[128]

Naming rights and sponsorships

Buildings

Venues

Sponsorships

Miscellaneous

See also

References

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External links

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