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AT&T backpedals, updates internet TOS

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."

By Electronista Staff
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  1. fritzw1957

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2004


    This reminds me...

    back in the 70's when I had trouble calling home from Columbus, OH using an AT&T phone and I voiced my opinion to a family member who I was talking to via long distance. When I hung up the phone, the phone rang and thinking I may have owed some *more* money as it was a pay phone, I picked up the handset. Upon doing so, I was upbraided by an AT&T operator who said I had NO RIGHT to criticize AT&T for their service and that I owed them an apology at least, and if not, the operator would put a $100.00 charge on the other end of the call since the operator knew I was on a payphone and wouldn't be able to pay. I told her to stuff her idea where the sun doesn't shine and I would warn my family at home to be on the lookout for this so-called "AT&T Annoyance Charge" -- it never appeared on any bill though.

    But I was shocked that an operator was listening to the whole conversation -- I later found out that they can listen for up to 30 seconds to judge "line quality" -- funny... I thought that was a technicians job!

    I've also found out that later on, this policy was scrapped as I wasn't the only person who was accosted by these "operators" when a user was less than glowing about AT&T's operations!

  1. UberFu

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2002


    I'm glad...

    they got that straight ! [sarcasm]

  1. lepton

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2005


    It's a utility

    The electric company doesn't and shouldn't care what I use the electricity FOR. The water company isn't and shouldn't be concerned with what I use the water FOR. An Internet service provider is paid to ship bits here and there. It shouldn't be concerned with what I use the bits FOR. These things are my concern and my legal problem alone, if I do something bad.

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