AT&T

Last updated

AT&T Inc.
Formerly
  • Southwestern Bell Corporation (1983–1995)
  • SBC Communications Inc. [1] (1995–2005)
Public
Traded as
ISIN US00206R1023
Industry
Predecessor
FoundedOctober 5, 1983;36 years ago (1983-10-05) [2]
Headquarters Whitacre Tower, ,
U.S.
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Randall L. Stephenson
(Chairman and CEO)
John Stankey
(President and COO)
John J. Stephens
(SVP and CFO)
Products
RevenueIncrease2.svg US$ 170.756 billion (2018)
Increase2.svg US$ 26.096 billion (2018)
Increase2.svg US$ 19.953 billion (2018)
Total assets Increase2.svg US$ 531 billion (2018)
Total equity Increase2.svg US$ 193.884 billion (2018) [3]
Number of employees
273,210 (2018) [4]
Divisions
Website about.att.com

AT&T Inc. is an American multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered at Whitacre Tower in Downtown Dallas, Texas. [5] It is the world's largest telecommunications company, the 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. [6] As of 2018, AT&T is ranked #9 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. [7]

Multinational corporation Corporation operating in multiple countries

A multinational corporation (MNC) or worldwide enterprise is a corporate organization that owns or controls production of goods or services in at least one country other than its home country. Black's Law Dictionary suggests that a company or group should be considered a multinational corporation if it derives 25% or more of its revenue from out-of-home-country operations. A multinational corporation can also be referred to as a multinational enterprise (MNE), a transnational enterprise (TNE), a transnational corporation (TNC), an international corporation, or a stateless corporation. There are subtle but real differences between these three labels, as well as multinational corporation and worldwide enterprise.

Conglomerate (company) two or more corporations that fall under one corporate group

A conglomerate is a combination of multiple business entities operating in entirely different industries under one corporate group, usually involving a parent company and many subsidiaries. Often, a conglomerate is a multi-industry company. Conglomerates are often large and multinational.

A holding company is a company that owns other companies' outstanding stock. A holding company usually does not produce goods or services itself ; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies to form a corporate group. Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and can allow the ownership and control of a number of different companies.

Contents

AT&T began its history as Southwestern Bell Telephone Company , a subsidiary of the Bell Telephone Company, founded by Alexander Graham Bell in 1877. 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), commonly referred to as "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.

Bell Telephone Company

The Bell Telephone Company, a common law joint stock company, was organized in Boston, Massachusetts on July 9, 1877, by Alexander Graham Bell's father-in-law Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who also helped organize a sister company — the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. The Bell Telephone Company was started on the basis of holding "potentially valuable patents", principally Bell's master telephone patent #174465.

Alexander Graham Bell scientist and inventor known for his work on the telephone

Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born American inventor, scientist, and engineer who is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. He also co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885.

AT&T Corporation Subsidiary of AT&T that provides voice, video, data, and Internet telecommunications

AT&T Corporation, originally the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, is the subsidiary of AT&T Inc. that provides voice, video, data, and Internet telecommunications and professional services to businesses, consumers, and government agencies.

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. [8]

AT&T Communications American telecommunications company

AT&T Communications, LLC is a subsidiary of AT&T that focuses on wireline, wireless, digital television, satellite television, fixed line telephone, mobile phone, broadband, home security, IPTV, OTT services, network security, and pay television offerings, as well as business applications. This is the corporate division that was created in 2017 to house all of AT&T's Telecommunications and Technology Businesses, which include AT&T Mobility, DirecTV, U-Verse, AT&T Business, AT&T Intellectual Property, AT&T Labs, Cricket Wireless, AT&T Digital Life, Vyatta, AT&T Entertainment Group which includes AT&T Fiber, and AT&T Technology & Operations Group. As of June 2018, it is AT&T's largest division by revenue.

History

Origin and growth (1885–1981)

AT&T can trace its origin back to the Bell Telephone Company founded by Alexander Graham Bell, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, and Thomas Sanders after Bell's patenting of the telephone. [9] One of that company's subsidiaries was American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), established in 1885, [10] 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 phone service monopoly, authorized by government authorities with the Kingsbury Commitment, throughout most of the twentieth century. This monopoly was known as the Bell System, [11] and during this period, AT&T was also known by the nickname Ma Bell. [12] For periods of time, the former AT&T was the world's largest phone company.

Gardiner Greene Hubbard American lawyer

Gardiner Greene Hubbard was an American lawyer, financier, and community leader.

Telephone Telecommunications device

A telephone, or phone, is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic signals that are transmitted via cables and other communication channels to another telephone which reproduces the sound to the receiving user.

Monopoly Market structure with a single firm dominating the market

A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity. This contrasts with a monopsony which relates to a single entity's control of a market to purchase a good or service, and with oligopoly which consists of a few sellers dominating a market. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service, a lack of viable substitute goods, and the possibility of a high monopoly price well above the seller's marginal cost that leads to a high monopoly profit. The verb monopolise or monopolize refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors. In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge overly high prices. Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry.

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. [13] 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.

Breakup of the Bell System

The breakup of the Bell System was mandated on January 8, 1982, by an agreed consent decree providing that AT&T Corporation would, as had been initially proposed by AT&T, relinquish control of the Bell Operating Companies that had provided local telephone service in the United States and Canada up until that point. This effectively took the monopoly that was the Bell System and split it into entirely separate companies that would continue to provide telephone service. AT&T would continue to be a provider of long distance service, while the now-independent Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) would provide local service, and would no longer be directly supplied with equipment from AT&T subsidiary Western Electric.

MCI Communications Former telecommunications and networking company

MCI Communications Corp. was an American telecommunications company that was instrumental in legal and regulatory changes that led to the breakup of the AT&T monopoly of American telephony and ushered in the competitive long-distance telephone industry. It was headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Sprint Corporation American telecommunications company

Sprint Corporation is an American telecommunications company that provides wireless services and is an internet service provider, based in Overland Park, Kansas. It is the fourth-largest mobile network operator in the United States and serves 54.5 million customers as of March 2019. The company also offers wireless voice, messaging, and broadband services through its various subsidiaries under the Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Assurance Wireless brands, and wholesale access to its wireless networks to mobile virtual network operators. In July 2013, a majority of the company was purchased by Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Group Corp., although the remaining shares of the company continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Sprint uses CDMA, EvDO, 4G LTE, and 5G NR networks. Sprint is incorporated in Kansas.

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).

Metromedia defunct American media company

Metromedia was an American media company that owned radio and television stations in the United States from 1956 to 1986 and controlled Orion Pictures from 1988 to 1997. Metromedia was established in 1956 after the DuMont Television Network ceased operations and its owned-and-operated stations were spun off into a separate company. Metromedia sold its television stations to News Corporation in 1985, and spun off its radio stations into a separate company in 1986. Metromedia then acquired ownership stakes in various film studios, including controlling ownership in Orion. In 1997, Metromedia closed down and sold its media assets to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

<i>Fortune</i> 500 Annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine

The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks 500 of the largest United States corporations by total revenue for their respective fiscal years. The list includes publicly held companies, along with privately held companies for which revenues are publicly available. The concept of the Fortune 500 was created by Edgar P. Smith, a Fortune editor, and the first list was published in 1955. The Fortune 500 is more commonly used than its subset Fortune 100 or superset Fortune 1000.

Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), or simply the Dow, is a stock market index that measures the stock performance of 30 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States. Although it is one of the most commonly followed equity indices, since it only includes 30 companies and is not weighted by market capitalization and is not a weighted arithmetic mean, many consider the Dow to not be a good representation of the U.S. stock market and consider the S&P 500 Index, which also includes the 30 components of the Dow, to be a better representation of the U.S. stock market.

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. However, it retains SBC's 1983-2005 corporate structure. [14] 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. [15] In December 2013, AT&T announced plans to sell its Connecticut wireline operations to Stamford-based Frontier Communications. [16]

Recent developments (2014–present)

AT&T purchased the Mexican carrier Iusacell in late 2014, [17] and two months later purchased the Mexican wireless business of NII Holdings, [18] 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, [19] subject to certain conditions. [20] [21] AT&T subsequently announced plans to converge its existing U-verse home internet and IPTV brands with DirecTV, to create AT&T Entertainment. [22] [23] [24]

On October 22, 2016, AT&T announced a deal to buy Time Warner for $108.7 billion in an effort to increase its media holdings. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30]

AT&T also owns approximately a 2% stake in Canadian-domiciled entertainment company Lionsgate. [31]

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. [32] [33] [34] In October 2018, it was announced that the service would launch in 2019. [35] [36] Named HBO Max, the service's release date was pushed to 2020. [37]

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. [38]

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." [39] [40] 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. [41]

As of 2017, AT&T is the world's largest telecommunications company. [42] AT&T is also the second largest provider of mobile telephone services and the largest provider of fixed telephone services in the United States. [43]

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. [44] [45] However, on April 18, 2018, just a day before the public debut of Vrio, AT&T canceled the IPO due to market conditions. [46] [47]

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. [48] 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. [49]

Three months after completing the acquisition, AT&T reorganized into four main units: Communications, including consumer and business wireline telephony, AT&T Mobility, and consumer entertainment video services; WarnerMedia, including Turner cable television networks, Warner Bros. film and television production, and HBO; AT&T Latin America, consisting of wireless service in Mexico and video in Latin America and the Caribbean under the Vrio brand; and Advertising and Analytics, since renamed Xandr. [50] [51]

By 2019, AT&T had developed partnerships with health care providers to develop mobile health-related connectivity devices that aid in patient care. Key products include a telemetry device that monitors patient metrics, while toggling between WIFI and cellular connectivity. [52]

In September 2019, Elliott Management published a letter outlining its proposal for a "value-creation opportunity" at AT&T. The activist investor announces that it owns $3.2 billion of AT&T stock (a 1.2% equity interest), and asserts that the company could increase its share value through divestiture of some assets. [53] [54]

AT&T Latin America

AT&T Latin America, LLC
Formerly
AT&T International, Inc. (2017-2018)
Division
ISIN US00206R1023  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Industry Telecommunication
PredecessorAT&T Corporation  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Founded2017;2 years ago (2017)
Headquarters,
United States [55]
Area served
Mexico
Key people
Lori Lee
(CEO)
Products Wireless
Satellite television
RevenueDecrease2.svg US$7 billion (2018) [56]
Total assets 403,820,000,000 US dollar (2016)  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Number of employees
273,000(2016)  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Parent AT&T
Subsidiaries AT&T Mexico
Vrio
Website www.att.com

AT&T Latin America (formerly AT&T International, Inc.) is a wholly owned division of AT&T which operates in Mexico and 11 countries in South America. [57]

In 2017, AT&T announced a new AT&T International corporate division housing AT&T Mexico, DirecTV Latin America and their stakes of SKY Brazil and Sky Mexico. [58]

In October 2016, AT&T announced a deal to acquire Time Warner worth $85.4 billion (including assumed Time Warner debt). The proposed deal would give AT&T significant holdings in the media industry; AT&T's competitor Comcast had previously acquired NBCUniversal in a similar bid to increase its media holdings, in concert with its ownership of television and internet providers. If approved by federal regulators, the merger would bring Time Warner's properties under the same umbrella as AT&T's telecommunication holdings, including satellite provider DirecTV. [59] [60] [61]

By the end of July, the company announced that, effective August 1, a new structure was created before the acquisition would close. On September 15, 2017, Reuters reported, citing anonymous sources, that AT&T, the owner of DIRECTV's U.S. and Latin American divisions, had hired an advisor to consider offering AT&T Latin America on the public stock market. In November 2017, the U.S. Justice Department said it was moving to sue to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger. [62] On November 20, 2017, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit over the acquisition; Makan Delrahim stated that the deal would "greatly harm American consumers". AT&T asserts that this suit is a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent". [63] On December 22, 2017, the merger agreement deadline was extended to June 21, 2018. [64] On April 19, 2018, the IPO was cancelled. On June 12, 2018, the AT&T-Time Warner merger was approved by a federal judge. [65] Two days later, AT&T completed the acquisition of Time Warner, and a day later the company was renamed WarnerMedia.

On September 21, 2018, AT&T reclassified it four principal divisions which includes AT&T International which now have some assets moved out like the RSNs, an also merging Consumer Mobility, Technology and Business Mobility and renamed the company as AT&T Latin America. [50]

Landline operating companies

Of the eight companies that were part of the Breakup of the Bell System, these five are a part of the current AT&T: [66]

Chart of AT&T Baby Bells

AT&T Corporation
RBOCs grouped into "Baby Bells" split off in 1984
BellSouth AT&T Corp.
(non-LEC)
Ameritech Pacific Telesis Southwestern Bell Corp.
(later SBC Communications)
Bell Atlantic NYNEX US West
GTE Corporation
(non-RBOC ILEC)
Qwest (non-ILEC)
Verizon
AT&T Inc.
(former SBC)
CenturyLink
(non-RBOC ILEC)
AT&T Inc. Verizon CenturyLink

Former operating companies

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

Decline of rural landlines

Of the Baby Bells, Ameritech sold some of its Wisconsin landlines to CenturyTel, in 1998; BellSouth sold some of its lines to MebTel, during 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. [69]

Corporate structure

AT&T office in San Antonio, Texas AT&TOrange.JPG
AT&T office in San Antonio, Texas

Facilities and regions

The company is headquartered at Whitacre Tower in downtown Dallas, Texas. [5] 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. [5] [70] 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. [71] 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, and is where the original AT&T Corp. remains located. St. Louis continues as home to the company's Directory operations, AT&T Advertising Solutions. [72]

AT&T offers also services in many locations throughout the Asia Pacific; its regional headquarters is located in Hong Kong. [73] 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. [17] The acquisition was approved in January 2015.[ citation needed ] [74] [75] On April 30, 2015, AT&T acquired wireless operations Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings (now AT&T Mexico). [76]

Corporate governance

CEO Randall L. Stephenson at the 2008 World Economic Forum Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T.jpg
CEO Randall L. Stephenson at the 2008 World Economic Forum

AT&T's current board of directors as of May 2019: [77]

The current management as of October 2019 includes: [78]

Political involvement

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of 2018, AT&T is the fifteenth-largest donor to United States political campaigns, [79] and was the top American corporate donor in 2011, [80] having contributed more than US$47.7 million since 1990, 56% of which went to Republicans and 44% of which went to Democrats. [81] 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. [82] [83] [84] Bill Leahy, representing AT&T, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). [85] 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. [86] [87] [88]

During the period of 1998 to 2010, the company expended US$130 million on lobbying in the United States. [80] 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. [89] 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. [90] The FCC would have to act in a more transparent way as a result of this bill, forced to accept public input about regulations. [91] 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." [92]

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. [93] Although initial reports on May 8 mentioned only four monthly payments totaling $200,000, [94] 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. [95] [96] AT&T confirmed the report the same day. [97] 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, [95] [96] 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. [98] However, Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai denied Cohen ever inquired about net neutrality on AT&T's behalf. [97] [99] 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. [100] [101]

In early 2019 the Democratic House Judiciary requested records related to the AT&T-Time Warner merger from the White House. [102]

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. [103] [104] [105] [106]

Year2001200220032004200520062007200820092010201120122013201420152016
Revenues45.3842.8240.5040.7943.8663.06118.9124.0122.5124.8126.7127.4128.8132.4146.8163.8
Net Income7.0085.6538.5055.8874.7687.35611.9512.8712.1219.093.9447.26418.256.22413.6913.33
Assets96.4295.17102.0110.3145.6270.6275.6265.2268.3268.5270.3272.3277.8292.8402.7403.8
Number of employees (thousands)193.4175.0168.0162.7190.0304.2309.1302.7282.7266.6256.4241.8243.4243.6281.5268.5

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, [107] 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." [108] 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. [109] 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." [110]

Privacy controversy

Diagram of how alleged wiretapping worked. From EFF court filings Page9-SER klein exhibits.jpg
Diagram of how alleged wiretapping worked. From EFF court filings

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. [112] [113] The Department of Justice has stated it will intervene in this lawsuit by means of State Secrets Privilege. [114]

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 ] [115]

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. [116] 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.'" [117]

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. [118]

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. [119]

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. [120]

AT&T has a one star privacy rating from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. [121]

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. [122] Commentators in the media have speculated that if this plan is implemented, it would lead to a mass exodus of subscribers leaving AT&T, [123] although this is misleading as Internet traffic may go through the company's network anyway. [122] 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". [124]

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. [124] 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." [124]

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". [124]

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. [125] These email addresses could be accessed without a protective password. [126] Using a script, Goatse Security collected thousands of email addresses from AT&T. [125] Goatse Security informed AT&T about the security flaw through a third party. [127] 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 . [125] [127] Praetorian Security Group criticized the web application that Goatse Security exploited as "poorly designed". [125]

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. [128] [129]

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." [130]

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. [131] Slator was also hit with a $100 million discrimination lawsuit, filed by African-American employee Knoyme King. [132] 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. [133]

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. [134] [135]

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. [136]

Naming rights and sponsorships

Buildings

AT&T Midtown Center in Atlanta, Georgia Att-midtown-center-atlanta.jpg
AT&T Midtown Center in Atlanta, Georgia

Venues

AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas Texasdd.JPG
AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas

Sponsorships

See also

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