Saturday, August 23, 2008

AT&T's new contract with you

We are a country of laws.
Every person gets his or her day in court.

That may have once been the case, but if you have traditional phone service in Humboldt County, you are about to give up these most basic rights of an American citizen.

As of October 1st, all customers of AT&T will be obligated to the terms of their new 13 clause contract, which, among other things, prohibits you from any legal recourse in a court of law, including small claims court, and which prohibits you from participating in any class action lawsuits against AT&T. And this is retroactive, so it applies to claims for violations that may have occurred prior to this agreement.

There has been no coverage of this yet, by any local media, but there was a story done by a Bay Area television station, which includes comments from an attorney with TURN, the consumer watchdog group. There is also information available on UCAN's website, the Utility Consumer Action Network.

One other clause in the contract, which has not been brought up in even this limited coverage, is that you are agreeing to let "unauthorized third parties" (such as the Federal Government) monitor your communications (clause 10 d).

My take on this is that having been given criminal immunity by the Congress for their role in the illegal wiretapping by the Federal Government, AT&T is using this new contract to give themselves immunity from civil liability, which would have been the only recourse left to citizens whose constitutional rights were violated by these wire taps. This is in addition to avoiding any other legal actions from their day to day business practices.

It should be no surprise that a major corporation wants such protection. What is surprising is that the California Public Utilities Commission is allowing this. Apparently their justification is that there is competition in "most" local markets for local land line phone service. Of course that is not the case in Humboldt County, where our only other options are cell phones, if you happen to get service in your area, or voice over IP, if you happen to get high speed internet service, from someone other than AT&T, such as Suddenlink Cable or a wireless internet provider such as 101 Netlink (these services will not work during a power outage).

You can contact our State Senator and Assembly Member and you should file a complaint with the CPUC*, to ask for some relief, but unless you cancel your service with AT&T by October 1st, you will have agreed to these terms.

This is one more example of what deregulation has brought us.


* in addition to clicking on the CPUC link, you can file a complaint through snail mail, phone or fax. (you can also file a complaint with the FCC):

U.S. mail to:
California Public Utilities Commission
Consumer Affairs Branch
505 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102-3298

Call us toll-free, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at 1-800-649-7570

Fax us at 1-415-703-1158


Sign the petition to stop the AT&T service agreement

From: TURN The Utility Reform Network

Fight back against AT&T's new service agreement:
A Get Out of Jail Free Card for AT&T

AT&T's new 18-page residential service agreement is long and confusing, says TURN. Among the items buried in the fine print: No Class-Action Lawsuits Allowed, and Government Wiretapping's OK. The agreement would force customers to give up their legal rights to receive phone service from California's dominant provider.

Click here to sign the petition to stop the AT&T service agreement.


Stephen said...

One of the services that our employee-owned and managed Palco Community Corporation would have provided for all Palco employees and everyone who subscribed to the Palco Plan a local community phone service via satellite--a phone service that you can actually talk to a human being when asking for service, human beings living right here in the community with the whole communication system localized so when there's problems you can deal with real people who are your neighbors sharing a better and cheaper phone service.

hucktunes said...

I received the new contract agreement from AT&T a couple weeks ago and couldn't make hide nor hair of it and filed it away somewhere. Thanks, Richard, for clarifying it for me.

Stephen said...

We need our own Humboldt satellite phone system independent of AT&T or any outside corporate owner. As things are now, the phone companies and phone banks are free to invade your property, disturb you day and night with their home invasions. I am on the supposed no-call list but get calls anyway--some with locks on them that bypass your hand-held off button so you can't hang up on them on the phone itself, you have to pick up the receiver and press its off button, the phone's off switch has been bypassed.

Stephen said...

Richard, you just happen to pick a topic dear to my heart ever since I was trained as a coin collector for AT&T owned PacBell I think it was called way back in the '60's. I train for three months in 1966 on driving and coin collecting and have a training route in Altadena next to Pasadena and then they assign me my real route..a white guy driving a small white van up up to pay-phones and collecting the money as I look furtively around the black South L.A. neighborhood that was to be my assigned territory. Uh, no's only been a year after the Watt's Riots and I don't think so..and I quit before I started that route.

heraldo said...

Via Boing Boing:

Cartoon depicts what went on in the NSA's wiretapping room at AT&T

Rose said...

Welcome. Linked.

Carol said...

Both Greg and myself read through that long wordy contract, and sure enough, the only thing you can do is schedule an appointment to have the phone service cancelled. I think they have the monopoly on local land-line phone service. I do not think cellphones are reliable during emergencies and when we lose power. I can usually depend on my old rotary phone to dial P.G.& E. to report power outages, so I do not think I will cancel our phone service. What I have noticed is that for the same service my rate went from $20/month to $42/month just in the last couple of years.

Best to you and your blog, Richard!

Local Yokel said...

Carol, Touchtone phones are powered from the phone line, just like rotary ones. You don't need a rotary phone in a power outage, unless you're just smugly feeling primitive and like to imagine you're a rugged pioneer roughing it in the wilderness. Well, you're not that, wannabe you are.

Good Luck Richard, watch out for Ar*ley !

Carol said...

I beg to differ, local yokel. At least my touch-tone phones need power to operate. Please tell me where I can find one that does not need to be plugged-in to power? Besides, I like my old rotary dial phone. The ring is loud, so I can hear it outside.

Tom Sebourn said...

We signed up for MCI years ago and still get a bill from them. It's a service called the Neighborhood and has unlimited calling nation wide. We are in Trinidad so it should be available elsewhere in the county. It's not real cheap but it is a flat fee. MCI went through bankruptcy a couple of years ago but they still provide us with service. They probably have a simular contract. I haven't read theirs in a long time.
Quest is the only national phone company that balked at giving all their information over to the FEDS. George Bush asked Quest to tap their phones in February 2001 for the government. Bush later said the taps were because of 9/11.
That is a flat out lie. It was called 9/11 because that's when it happened, not 2/11.