AT&T promises new jobs, gets tax break — cuts thousands of jobs!


AT&T Liar-in-ChiefBloomberg/Getty

❝ AT&T in November 2017 pushed for the corporate tax cut by promising to invest an additional $1 billion in 2018, with CEO Randall Stephenson saying that “every billion dollars AT&T invests is 7,000 hard-hat jobs. These are not entry-level jobs. These are 7,000 jobs of people putting fiber in ground, hard-hat jobs that make $70,000 to $80,000 per year.”

❝ The corporate tax cut was subsequently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The tax cut reportedly gave AT&T an extra $3 billion in cash in 2018.

But AT&T cut capital spending and kept laying people off after the tax cut. A union analysis of AT&T’s publicly available financial statements “shows the telecom company eliminated 23,328 jobs since the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in late 2017, including nearly 6,000 in the first quarter of 2019,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said…

AT&T’s only expansion in total workforce came from acquisition of Time-Warner and two smaller companies. The existing workforce was cut.

ATT & Verizon rip-off DSL customers


Aurich Lawson/Thinkstock

❝ Tens of millions of people in the AT&T and Verizon service territories can only buy slow DSL Internet from the companies, yet they often have to pay the same price as fiber customers who get some of the fastest broadband speeds in the US.

That’s the conclusion of a new white paper written by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), a broadband advocacy group.

❝ “[I]n recent years, the nation’s two largest telco ISPs, AT&T and Verizon, have eliminated their cheaper rate tiers for low and mid-speed Internet access, except at the very slowest levels,” the NDIA wrote. “Each company now charges essentially identical monthly prices—$63-$65 a month after first-year discounts have ended—for home wireline broadband connections at almost any speed up to 100/100 Mbps fiber service.”

RTFA. Consider hollering at your elected representatives in Congress to support you and your peers fight for better treatment, affordable access to the Web. It’s overdue and criminally corrupt.

AT&T’s fiber-to-the-home rollout: 1Gbps for the rich, 768kbps for the poor — surprised?

❝ AT&T’s deployment of fiber-to-the-home in California has been heavily concentrated in higher-income neighborhoods, giving affluent people access to gigabit speeds while others are stuck with Internet service that doesn’t even meet state and federal broadband standards, according to a new analysis…

❝ California households with access to AT&T’s fiber service have a median income of $94,208…By contrast, the median household income is $53,186 in California neighborhoods where AT&T provides only DSL, with download speeds typically ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps. At the low end, that’s less than 1 percent of the gigabit speeds offered by AT&T’s fiber service.

The income difference is even more stark in some parts of California. “For example, in Los Angeles County, the median income of households with fiber-to-the-home access is $110,474, compared with $60,534 for those with U-verse availability, and $47,894 for those with only DSL availability,” the report said.

❝ In 4.1 million California households, representing 42.8 percent of AT&T’s California service area, AT&T’s fastest speeds fell short of the federal broadband definition of 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads…

❝ As copper networks increasingly become outdated, the FCC is seeking to eliminate regulations to make it easier for ISPs to retire copper networks. However, the copper could be replaced by wireless networks instead of fiber in areas where fiber rollouts aren’t cost-effective. AT&T is deploying a 10Mbps fixed wireless service in order to meet its Connect America Fund obligations.

As if AT&T cared a rat’s ass about service to folks in rural America. They won’t even sort out democratic access in urban areas – and if the experience in other Western nations is a model, that’s simply short-term greed overcoming good sense.

AT&T is BFF with NSA

The telecoms giant AT&T has had an “extraordinary, decades-long” relationship with the National Security Agency…Citing newly disclosed NSA documents dating from 2003 to 2013, the New York Times said in a story published with ProPublica that AT&T was described as “highly collaborative” with an “extreme willingness to help” with government internet surveillance.

In June 2013, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents to media outlets including the Guardian. The following April, the Guardian and the Washington Post were awarded a Pulitzer prize for reporting on the story.

The new documents show that AT&T gave the NSA access to “billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks”, the Times and ProPublica said. The reports also said AT&T provided “technical assistance” in “wiretapping all internet communications at the United Nations headquarters” in New York City.

The documents also show that the NSA’s budget for its relationship with AT&T was twice as large as that of the next-largest such programme, and that the company placed surveillance equipment in 17 of its US internet hubs.

The Times said the new documents did not name AT&T, but said analysis by its reporters and ProPublica revealed “a constellation of evidence” that pointed to the company…

The Times quoted an AT&T spokesman, Brad Burns, as saying: blah, blah, blah, blah.

You can fill in the gaps with any of the several varieties of bullshit offered on occasions like this by some corporate mouthpiece for the alphabet snoops in question, the government in question and the even more questionable cowards and collaborators in Congress who keep this crap flowing into the waters of our lives.

Verizon’s Supercookies are a profitable corporate threat to your privacy

For the last several months, cybersecurity experts have been warning Verizon Wireless that it was putting the privacy of its customers at risk. The computer codes the company uses to tag and follow its mobile subscribers around the web, they said, could make those consumers vulnerable to covert tracking and profiling.

It looks as if there was reason to worry.

This month Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University, reported on his blog that Turn, an advertising software company, was using Verizon’s unique customer codes to regenerate its own tracking tags after consumers had chosen to delete what is called a cookie — a little bit of code that can stick with your web browser after you have visited a site. In effect, Turn found a way to keep tracking visitors even after they tried to delete their digital footprints…

While Internet users can choose to delete their regular cookies, Verizon Wireless users cannot delete the company’s so-called supercookies…

Indeed, after a report on the practice by ProPublica, Turn announced it would suspend its use of Verizon’s ID codes to regenerate tracking cookies and reconsider its use of the technique…

Verizon is now at the forefront of telecommunications companies selling intelligence about their customers to advertisers…

The ad-targeting experiments by Verizon and AT&T are striking examples of the data-mining opportunities open to phone carriers now that they have become the nexus of the information universe, providing a connection to the Internet for people anywhere they go, at any time…

Some leading data-privacy and security experts contend that Verizon’s use of unique and persistent customer ID tags makes its subscribers vulnerable to covert online tracking by third parties.

Harold Feld, a senior vice president at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that focuses on information policy, said..“Stuff like this is worse than what Google or Facebook or anyone else does,” Mr. Feld said.

“I can avoid Google and Facebook, in theory at least. But if the network operator is going to spy on me, there is nothing I can do about it.”

Cripes. One more category of snoop we get to feed with information for free – so they can profit.

FTC expects record claims over AT&T cramming scam

AT&Y scum

Over 359,000 AT&T customers have already filled out an online application to obtain refunds from the company, which padded phone bills with suspect SMS charges.

Since the Federal Trade Commission announced a $105 million settlement with AT&T last week over fake billing charges, 359,000 individuals have already come forward to claim their share of the refund money, and that number is expected to climb.

The claims relate to so-called “cramming” charges in which AT&T customers paid extra fees, usually in the amount of $9.99, for “premium SMS” services that promised to deliver content like horoscopes and celebrity news to cell phones. Such services are a relic of the pre-smartphone days, but people still paid for them, often without authorization, with AT&T receiving a commission on the charges…

The process for making a claim is very straightforward: anyone who was an AT&T customer after January 1, 2009 can simply fill out this online form, which only requires a phone number and address.

Crooked corporation of the day, eh?

Bipartisan bill in Senate introduced to end NSA bulk telephone records collection

Democratic and Republican U.S. senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ communication records and set other new controls on the government’s electronic eavesdropping programs.

The measure introduced by Democrats Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Richard Blumenthal, and Republican Rand Paul, is one of several efforts making their way through Congress to rein in sweeping surveillance programs…

“The disclosures over the last 100 days have caused a sea change in the way the public views the surveillance system,” said Wyden, a leading congressional advocate for tighter privacy controls, told a news conference.

The surveillance programs have come under intense scrutiny since disclosures this spring by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the government collects far more Internet and telephone data than previously known.

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AT&T saves decades of call records for the DEA


DEA agents – or AT&T employees?

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

The project comes to light at a time of vigorous public debate over the proper limits on government surveillance and on the relationship between government agencies and communications companies. It offers the most significant look to date at the use of such large-scale data for law enforcement, rather than for national security.

The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years.

Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day, the slides say; technical specialists say a single call may generate more than one record. Unlike the N.S.A. data, the Hemisphere data includes information on the locations of callers.

The slides were given to The New York Times by Drew Hendricks, a peace activist in Port Hadlock, Wash. He said he had received the PowerPoint presentation, which is unclassified but marked “Law enforcement sensitive,” in response to a series of public information requests to West Coast police agencies.

The program was started in 2007, according to the slides, and has been carried out in great secrecy.

“All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document,” one slide says. A search of the Nexis database found no reference to the program in news reports or Congressional hearings.

The Obama administration acknowledged the extraordinary scale of the Hemisphere database and the unusual embedding of AT&T employees in government drug units in three states.

But they said the project, which has proved especially useful in finding criminals who discard cellphones frequently to thwart government tracking, employed routine investigative procedures used in criminal cases for decades and posed no novel privacy issues.

Crucially, they said, the phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government as in the N.S.A. program. It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.

The government will offer up blather about success at shutting down drug dealers. Worthy of one more ironic slow clap. Success arrived at by compromising the privacy of the citizens of a supposedly free country is crap. Government self-praise floating atop a cesspool of corrupt practices is just one more signal of imperial power clasped to the bosom of power-hungry politicians.

Relying on one of our royal corporations to store and dole out information on every citizen smacks of one more sci-fi prediction come true. Corporate networks functioning as the best ally of a potentially fascist state ain’t exactly something worth bragging about. Even though that will be the response from hacks in both parties now that Drew Hendricks has turned up one more Big Brother watchdog in our lives.

American coppers demanded 1.3 million cell records last year

Police are monitoring Americans’ cellphone use at a staggering rate, according to new information released in a congressional inquiry.

In letters released by Rep. Edward J. Markey cellphone companies described seeing a huge uptick in requests from law enforcement agencies, with 1.3 million federal, state and local requests for phone records in 2011 alone…

The data obtained by law enforcement in some requests included location information, text messages and “cell tower dumps” that include any calls made through a tower for a certain period of time. The carriers say the information is given away in response to warrants or emergencies where someone is in “imminent” danger.

“There is no comprehensive reporting of these information requests anywhere,” Markey’s office said in a statement. “This is the first ever accounting of this…”

The growth of cellphone use, private computing and social-media use in recent years has greatly expanded the wealth of information available to law enforcement agencies in investigations, a development in which police investigative abilities have expanded faster than the public has been able to keep track of the extent to which it’s being watched…

“The numbers don’t lie: location tracking is out of control,” Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU, noted in an analysis of the new data.

Anyone going to ask the coppers for a solid reason that can be tracked back in case some ordinary citizen wishes to complain about surveillance? Come on. Let’s hear it from the all-American patriotic Constitution-defending voices of corporate telecommunications.

How about the prosecutors and district attorneys who are always telling us of their devotion to the Bill of Rights, eh? Or is it up the the very few members of Congress with a conscience and commitment to something more than papier-mache liberty?

The Black Helicopter crowd among American geeks has it wrong!

This just in from Geneva: The United Nations has no plans to seize control of the Internet. The Web-snatching black helicopters have not left the hangar.

Internet conspiracy theorists will be disappointed. The latest one, fueled by “open Internet” groups, Internet companies like Google and some U.S. lawmakers, was that mouse-clicking bureaucrats at U.N. headquarters in Geneva, supported by governments suspicious of the United States, were scheming to take over the Internet itself.

The plot went something like this: At a meeting in December of an obscure U.N. agency called the International Telecommunication Union, Russia, China and their ilk would try to wrest oversight of the Internet away from the loose collection of public and private organizations that do the job now…

By last month these fears had grown so fevered that U.S. lawmakers introduced a resolution calling on the government to block proposals that “would justify under international law increased government control over the Internet and would reject the current multistakeholder model that has enabled the Internet to flourish…”

Of course, all of that translates as “it’s OUR internet and Johnny Furriner better stay hands off!”

Time for a reality check. Documents prepared for the December meeting, which leaked out last week — yes, on the Internet — show that there are no proposals to hand governance of the Net to the I.T.U…

The draft being prepared for the meeting, set to take place in Dubai, includes several Internet-related provisions, including measures to counter spam and bolster cybersecurity…But the draft includes no proposals to change the Internet’s core governance functions, which are handled by groups like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Internet Engineering Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium. ICANN, for example, oversees the domain name system while the later groups develop and maintain technical standards.

“It’s unfortunate that the Congress is spending so much valuable time on something that isn’t even on the table,” said Hamadoun Touré, secretary general of the I.T.U. “There is no single reference to Internet governance in the preparation document…”

The real conflict is not over governance of the Internet, some analysts say, but over the division of the spoils, with international telecommunications operators trying to use the I.T.U. to extract revenue from American Internet companies.

Golly. You don’t really think that honorable and open companies like Google or AT&T might try to stir up geek paranoia just to aid their bottom line – do you?

Would Congress actually participate in stupid phrase-mongering, the ringing of alarums in the middle of the night, wasting taxpayer money on unnecessary scares over foreign intervention over a God-given American property?

Bite your tongue!