Friday, May 12, 2006

Could AT&T's Consent to Turn Over Records Cost Them Their Battle Against Net Neutrality And/Or Their Acquisition of BellSouth?

AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth were not subpoenaed for tens of millions of phone records. They simply complied with a request. The possibility of blowback from the Bush administration's dragnet of phone records may hurt AT&T's chances, and actually may help tick up Comcast's reputation in the telephone market. From Financial Times:

[T]he renewed focus and growing suspicions over the US telecoms giants could cloud the companies legislative agenda, says David Kaut, an analyst at Stifel. The big telecoms companies are involved in a series of contentious issues including the debates over so-called 'net neutrality' and video franchising and reform of the current telecommunications legislation. AT&T is also seeking approval for its planned $68bn acquistion of BellSouth.
Significantly, the furor over the NSA requests could also highlight the disparity between the regulation of the telecommunications companies and their cable TV broadband telephony rivals whose activities are regulated by the 1984 Cable Act.
Despite the growing convergence of the two industries, US cable companies that offer broadband telephony are understood not to have been approached by the NSA perhaps because their share of the telephony market which, while growing quickly, remains relatively small.
Like internet service providers that have resisted other attempts by the US government and others to obtain customer information, the cable companies have generally adopted a robust attitude towards information requests.
"It is Comcast's policy and practice to require valid, appropriate legal process such as a subpoena, court order, or search warrant, in response to all requests for customer information," said the largest US cable group on Friday. "It is not company policy to provide the federal government access to customer records or the ability to monitor customer communications in the absence of valid legal process."
Comcast appears to be the lesser of all evils in the telephone market now.

05/12/2006, 11:30 p.m. Update: According to CNN, two lawyers filed suit against Verizon to the tune of $1,000 for each violation of the Telecommunications Act, or $5 billion if the case is certified as a class-action suit.

In a new Washington Post-ABC News flash poll, 63% of Americans take their right to privacy for granted find the NSA program acceptable. On Countdown tonight, Keith Olbermann pointed out that the question that garnered the 63% may have been flawed in asking:

It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations [emphasis mine to show the flaw to which Olbermann referred]. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
The w/o qualifier places a bias on the question that may not be true and might possibly change responses if taken out. The fact that the same survey found that only 51% of those surveyed approve of the way Bush is handling protecting privacy rights supports that possibility.

1 comment:

  1. Actually I think it's the other way around. First of all, NSA is exec branch, while Net Neutrality is being debated in Congress.

    Meanwhile, creating new Net Neutrality laws would do what? Give government MORE OVERSIGHT of the Internet. Would sure make it easier to spy without getting noticed, right?