updated 03:50 am EDT, Thu October 11, 2007
AT&T back-peddles on TOS
AT&T on Thursday clarified its disconcerting internet terms-of-service, completely reversing its stance with a much more progressive policy that it says underscores "the company's commitment to freedom of speech and open dialogue...whether that be via the Internet or elsewhere on the AT&T network." The world's largest telecom company -- and US largest wireless carrier -- apologized for the confusion and reiterated it would not terminate or suspend a customers' Internet access service based upon their political views or criticism of AT&T. Previously, the company TOS said the company could terminate service for any behavior it deemed detrimental to the company or subsidiaries, as noted earlier this month by weblog Gizmodo:
5.1 Suspension/Termination...AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, 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.
AT&T said that its Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy is designed to protect its customers, the public, and our network, reserving the right to suspend service for violations of the law, network integrity or security concerns, falsification of billing or service info, or abusive or safety-threatening actions.
The new, updated language is designed to step-around the First Amendment's freedom of speech:
5.1 Suspension/Termination. 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. However, AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, 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 (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; or (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines. Your Service may be suspended or terminated if your payment is past due and such condition continues un-remedied for thirty (30) days. Termination or suspension by AT&T of Service also constitutes termination or suspension (as applicable) of your license to use any Software. AT&T may also terminate or suspend your Service if you provide false or inaccurate information that is required for the provision of Service or is necessary to allow AT&T to bill you for Service.
The revision was a product of bad publicity that circulated on the internet following the reports of the egregious internet TOS.
"We feel that the clarifying language better reflects our actual long-held policy, which respects AT&T's customers' rights to freely voice their opinions and concerns," the company said in a statement. "In addition, we are in the process of reviewing our entire Terms of Service to ensure it reflects AT&T's ongoing and unblemished commitment to freedom of expression as outlined in the language above."