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Paul Merrell

Lawmakers Change Their Tone on AT&T and Time Warner Deal - The New York Times - 0 views

  • When AT&T and Time Warner announced their $85.4 billion deal in October, lawmakers greeted the acquisition frostily. Now their tone is changing.

    At a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday that was being closely watched for how mega-mergers will be viewed in the coming Trump administration, members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that oversees regulatory agencies that decide on mergers said the deal merited tough scrutiny. The chief executives of AT&T and Time Warner were grilled at the hearing about a range of issues related to the deal.

    But in a change from previous comments, lawmakers also questioned whether traditional ways of evaluating mergers are growing outdated as Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google become massive media platforms that threaten the television industry. Their tone was more circumspect than those that immediately followed the deal’s announcement, when lawmakers had been more critical.

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    I think it plain that we need a flat ban on the same company controlling both an ISP and a content company. Comcast, the ISP/content company has proved that it's willing to misuse its ISP powers to disfavor other content companies such as Hulu and Netflix via network throttling. AT&T plus Time Warner would undoubtedly do the same. And Comcast led the charge against net neutrality, attempting to expand its revenue base from its ISP subscribers to include new charges on content providing companies. We need a clean separation between ISPs and content companies.
Paul Merrell

NSA Spying Relies on AT&T's 'Extreme Willingness to Help' - ProPublica - 0 views

  • he National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.

    While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed NSA documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.”

  • AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the NSA access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.

    The NSA’s top-secret budget in 2013 for the AT&T partnership was more than twice that of the next-largest such program, according to the documents. The company installed surveillance equipment in at least 17 of its Internet hubs on American soil, far more than its similarly sized competitor, Verizon. And its engineers were the first to try out new surveillance technologies invented by the eavesdropping agency.

    One document reminds NSA officials to be polite when visiting AT&T facilities, noting: “This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.”

    The documents, provided by the former agency contractor Edward Snowden, were jointly reviewed by The New York Times and ProPublica.

  • It is not clear if the programs still operate in the same way today. Since the Snowden revelations set off a global debate over surveillance two years ago, some Silicon Valley technology companies have expressed anger at what they characterize as NSA intrusions and have rolled out new encryption to thwart them. The telecommunications companies have been quieter, though Verizon unsuccessfully challenged a court order for bulk phone records in 2014.

    At the same time, the government has been fighting in court to keep the identities of its telecom partners hidden. In a recent case, a group of AT&T customers claimed that the NSA’s tapping of the Internet violated the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. This year, a federal judge dismissed key portions of the lawsuit after the Obama administration argued that public discussion of its telecom surveillance efforts would reveal state secrets, damaging national security.

Paul Merrell

AT&T Thumbs Nose at Net Neutrality With 'Sponsored' Bandwidth Scheme | Threat Level | W... - 0 views

  • AT&T announced a new scheme today that allows app-makers and websites to pay for the bandwidth you consume using their services — a move digital rights activists say breaches the spirit of net neutrality.

    The second largest mobile provider is taking advantage of the data caps it imposes on subscribers by letting companies sponsor the bandwidth their wares use. The consumer who enjoys those sponsored services will not have that broadband count against their monthly data allotment. Sponsorship is not mandatory — if a company doesn’t pay AT&T, the bandwidth will count against the user’s cap as always.

    Online rights groups said the move is anti-competitive and takes advantage of a loophole in Federal Communications Commission rules prohibiting ISPs from favoring one service over the other. For the most part, however, those FCC guidelines adopted in 2010 apply to cable, fiber and DSL internet providers, not wireless ones.

Paul Merrell

AT&T/T-Mobile deal offers risk, reward for Obama - Mike Zapler and Brooks Boliek - POLI... - 0 views

  • AT&T's controversial $39 billion bid for T-Mobile officially got under way Thursday, crystallizing a big risk and possibly a big opportunity for President Barack Obama.

    The risk: allowing a deal that could, in time, leave Americans with just two choices for cellphone providers. The potential opportunity: extending high-speed wireless to virtually the entire country, which AT&T has promised if the deal goes through.

  • The political implications don't end there: Blocking the acquisition would mean alienating a stalwart member of the business community. Approving it, critics warn, could lead to steep layoffs as the two phone companies merge overlapping operations.
Paul Merrell

AT&T Centennial Purchase Cleared by Antitrust Agency (Update1) - Bloomberg.com - 0 views

  • AT&T Inc.’s purchase of Centennial Communications Corp. was approved by the U.S. Justice Department on condition the combined company sells wireless assets in Louisiana and Mississippi.

    AT&T, based in Dallas, agreed to purchase Wall, New Jersey-based Centennial last November for $945 million. Centennial has wireless customers in Puerto Rico and rural areas in the Midwest and Southeast.

  • The deal still awaits approval by the Federal Communications Commission. Ruth Milkman, who heads the FCC’s wireless bureau, told a news conference today the agency will make a decision on the combination “very soon.” The Justice Department said it has cooperated with the FCC in reviewing the deal.
  • In recent months, the FCC has been asking the companies about their connections to America Movil, which has customers in Puerto Rico.

    AT&T and Centennial could have 49 percent of the mobile market in Puerto Rico by the end of 2009, and America Movil’s Claro could have 27 percent, according to an estimate by Jose Magana, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based analyst with Pyramid Research.

Paul Merrell

FCC Questions AT&T, Apple Over Google Voice App Ban - Technology News - redOrbit - 0 views

  • The FCC chairman sent “inquiry letters” to Apple and AT&T on Saturday in order to get answers as to why the companies disapproved of a voice application developed by Google for the iPhone.

    "The Federal Communications Commission has a mission to foster a competitive wireless marketplace, protect and empower consumers, and promote innovation and investment," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

    The letters involve Apple and AT&T’s latest decision to deny a Google Voice application from being offered on Apple’s App Store for the iPhone.

  • At this point, AT&T holds a contract with Apple making it the exclusive wireless carrier to offer the iPhone.
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