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  1. Round of devastating job cuts are deepest since the telecom giant said it would create jobs after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act NATIONWIDE — AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) plans to cut 1,880 American jobs over the next few months, continuing a pattern of drastic cuts to family-supporting jobs in communities across the country. The company began notifying employees that their jobs are at risk right before Father’s Day weekend, forcing thousands of working dads and families to spend the holiday figuring out what to do now that they are facing the loss of their paychecks. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was one of the most fervent proponents of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and said AT&T would use its tax dollars to create at least 7,000 jobs. But since the tax bill passed, the company has been aggressively eliminating tens of thousands of jobs. Meanwhile, AT&T has received a $21 billion windfall from the TCJA, slashed capital investments by $1.4 billion, given hefty pay increases to top executives and did not pay cash income taxes in 2018. These new cuts come just days after the Communications Workers of America (CWA) issued a series of reports showing AT&T’s network in the Midwest is in disrepair even as it is reducing the number of trained, career employees. “Instead of celebrating with my children on Father’s Day, I had to tell them that their dad may not have a job soon,” said Todd Menth, a father of two facing a job cut in Kent, Ohio. “I’ve worked hard at AT&T for nineteen years and I’m proud of my work. My message to AT&T is that it’s not too late to change course, to invest in next-generation networks and keep these good jobs in our community.” The job cut notifications began last Thursday, impacting technicians in the following states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The workers, members of CWA, are in a long-standing battle with the company to ensure that AT&T’s tax windfall is used as promised to create jobs and increase wages. Over 14,000 members of CWA in the Midwest, Puerto Rico and in AT&T’s national Legacy T unit are in contract negotiations with AT&T, and another 22,000 in the Southeast will begin negotiations this summer. In addition to this round of cuts, a CWA analysis from May 2019 showed the company has eliminated 23,328 jobs since the TCJA passed in late 2017, including nearly 6,000 in the first quarter of 2019. At the same time, the company continues to send work to low-wage contractors and overseas. AT&T has closed 44 call centers and eliminated 16,000 call center jobs in the last seven years, with the Midwest region being one of the hardest hit. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, where AT&T workers worked tirelessly to rebuild the AT&T network and help customers after Hurricane Maria, the company is refusing to ensure its two Puerto Rican call centers will stay open. Instead, AT&T recently opened Spanish-language call centers in Mexico that serve the U.S. market. “Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, and the AT&T workers here played a critical role in making sure people could reach their loved ones,” said Daniel Borrero, an AT&T Mobility customer care representative in Puerto Rico. “Instead of acknowledging our dedication and investing in American jobs in the commonwealth, AT&T seems to be directing Spanish-language work to other countries. After today’s news about major job cuts, Puerto Rican workers like me are worried we’re next.” AT&T responds to criticism of its massive job cuts with boasts about hiring and by saying that workers have the option to relocate. But AT&T workers and their union note that hiring to address turnover is not the same as job creation, and relocation options are often hundreds of miles away from workers’ homes and families in communities with dramatically higher costs of living, making relocation unviable for the majority of employees. The facts in AT&T’s own reports are clear—they have 23,000 fewer people on their payroll than they did at the beginning of 2018. CWA has been leading the charge to hold AT&T accountable to the jobs promises the company made as part of its effort to pass the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. In March, CWA President Chris Shelton testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee about the impact of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on American workers, and called on Congress to probe AT&T on how it is spending its tax cut money, saying: “You may ask ‘what is AT&T doing with this money if it’s not being used to create jobs and invest in the U.S.?’ We’d like to know as well.” Economists too have been weighing in on how big employers like AT&T are using their increased profits from the tax windfall: “The strongest claim made by proponents of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was that it would trickle down to aid working families by boosting wages,” said Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). “This was never a convincing claim and we can see now just how cynical it was all along: after lobbying fiercely for a corporate tax cut that put literally billions in their coffers, AT&T is fighting tooth and nail to make sure that they don’t have to share any of this new profitability with their workers by committing to invest in good jobs.” Source
  2. It certainly seems like the world of streaming video entered a new epoch recently. Last week, Comcast finally handed the reigns of Hulu over to Disney, which means the company will have not only the impending Disney+ streaming service but also a live TV service that competes with the big cable companies. Then, the very same day, we saw a genuinely awful outcome of AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, when CEO Randall Stephenson announced that Friends and other WarnerMedia-owned shows would be pulled from Netflix to run exclusively on the company’s forthcoming streaming platform. Apple reminded us of its foray into streaming with the release of the new Apple TV app, which will support TV+ later this year, and cable channel IFC announced it’s own streaming service for a monthly fee of $6. Look at all those content fiefdoms. As these companies snatch hold of rights and create their new exclusive content, they’re cordoning off their empires and demanding you to either ignore some of the most talked about TV shows and films available or pay your way into their services. Either way, it’s a dark future for the streamer. Now you might think “well I can just not subscribe!” or maybe “I don’t need to revisit Friends or the enormous catalog of classic films Warner now owns.” And that’s very true. But for many, that’s not realistic. People naturally want to be included in conversations. The internet has only bolstered the water cooler imperative of keeping up with mass culture events like Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones. Disney recognizes this. The company now owns the rights to some of the largest franchises in the business and is slowly pulling them form all other competing streaming platforms to force people to watch them on Disney+. Want to watch a Marvel movie or Star Wars? What about X-Men? Got a hankering for those blue Avatar people? Need to check out Frozen, Moana, The Incredibles, or Aladdin? You’ll have to cough up cash for Disney+. And you’ll be paying Disney for the privilege of watching ESPN too. It owns that, not to mention A&E, ABC, History Channel, a big chunk of Vice, FX, and even Lifetime. As we said before, Disney now owns Hulu outright, too—AT&T sold its share last month, and Comcast agreed to relinquish its share last week. Whenever a company consolidates large portions of a commodity that everyone wants, the first concern that comes to mind is cost. Streaming could get a whole lot more expensive. Remember how cheap Netflix was when it was just a dinky little add-on to the disc subscription service? But over the years it’s crept up. It’s now double the price it was five years ago. Disney, with its now enormous catalog of content (a catalog far more extensive and potentially more lucrative than Netflix’s), has already spread subscriptions across three different services, Hulu, ESPN, and soon Disney+. After it hooks you on Disney+ for $7 a month later this year, it could very easily start increasing the price. (No one at Disney has said as much to date.) It’s a tactic that has served TV providers well for some time. Lure them in with introductory prices, get them addicted to the service provided, and then raise the price. Sure you could shut off the never-ending stream of Moana, but will you? As irritating and expensive as Disney’s streaming monopoly will be, it’s the company’s dominance over culture that feels the most terrifying. So far this year, Disney has dominated roughly 35-percent of the American box office sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Combined with Warner Bros., that number jumps to about half of the U.S. box office. Very few companies are producing a large percentage of what we watch, and as they consolidate the means of distribution via the internet, it’s beginning to feel like they’ve got too much power—it ends badly. And we know that because this isn’t the first time a few companies have controlled both the production and distribution of huge amounts of entertainment. Back in the 1940s, you had a similar system, in some respects. “Basically the studios financed the movies, produced them themselves at their own companies and then they also owned some movie theaters,” Karina Longworth, a Hollywood historian and host of You Must Remember This, told me. This meant they could give sweetheart distribution deals to their own theaters while gouging competitors, and it meant if you wanted to be in the business of making movies, you also probably had to be in the business of building theaters all across the United States. According to Longworth, the U.S. government perceived that vertical integration of the entertainment business as a monopoly. Following a series of anti-trust actions and negotiations in the 1930s and 1940s, the studios ended up divesting themselves of their control over theaters. According to Longworth, the effect wasn’t immediately felt by consumers in any kind of financial way, but it had huge ramifications for the film industry, and for the kind of voices that were prioritized in movies. “There was, for all intents and purposes, no such thing as independent film that got any kind of distribution until the 1950s.” No indie film meant every single movie being made was dictated, to some degree, by a very small group of people at the very top of these studios. And while the people running studios can lift up and amplify a wide variety of voices and experiences, that’s not always practically the case. Black cinema wasn’t embraced by the big studios, nor was queer cinema. Films featuring people from other countries weren’t common. And thanks to the draconian nature of the Hays code and its enforcers (collectively working as the precursor to the frequently as awful MPAA) there was a broad swath of subject matter the big studios wouldn’t touch. You couldn’t even make a film decrying Nazism until right before the U.S. entered World War II. Source
  3. How a supercomputer is helping AT&T prepare for extreme weather Prepping for climate change with help from a national lab Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images AT&T has a new climate change risk-assessment tool, developed with the help of Argonne National Laboratory’s scientists and supercomputing power, CNBC reports. The telecommunications company hopes to protect its infrastructure from the flooding and extreme weather events that are projected to increase as climate change continues. A few years ago, AT&T started thinking about the long-term risks that climate change posed to its equipment. For example, the company has cell towers and sites across the country that are vulnerable to flooding and might need to be lifted above encroaching waters. In other places, services rely on above-ground copper wires that can blow down in large storms, and which might be safer buried underground as weather patterns shift. “We just essentially did a deep dive: What was our long term planning, and how was that linked to climate change?” Shannon Carroll, director of environmental sustainability at AT&T, tells The Verge. “THE MOST INTERESTING QUESTIONS PEOPLE ARE ASKING ARE AT THOSE SCALES.” So they turned to the scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, like Rao Kotamarthi, chief climate scientist in the environmental sciences division. He and his colleagues used millions of hours of supercomputing time to analyze how wind and flood risk could change in a warmer future. But for the data to be useful, they had to use a much smaller scale than usual. “Basically, you have to model at the scale where this infrastructure exists,” Kotamarthi tells The Verge. “The most interesting questions people are asking are at those scales.” Most climate models work at the 100-kilometer (62-mile) scale, which means the data covers 100-kilometer square chunks of North America. That gives you the big picture, but not finer-grained details like what’s happening on a particular block. The Argonne team managed to get their regional climate models down to the 12-kilometer (7.5 mile) scale — and for the flooding data, down to 200 meters (656 feet). That’s key for the kind of planning AT&T wants to use that information for. “It’s all about the resolution — how close of a view can you get,” AT&T’s Carroll says. Analyzing climate data on such a small scale takes a lot of time and computing power, which makes it expensive. “The struggle is to get to those scales as much as possible but to still have some useful information,” Kotamarthi says. “How far you can go is a good question to ask.” All told, he estimates that crunching the numbers took around 80 million hours on parallel processors at Argonne National Laboratory’s supercomputer. “WE BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE LONG TERM FINANCIAL BENEFITS TO DOING THIS.” The Argonne scientists shrunk that information down and gave it to AT&T, which mixed the data with its own mapping tools that show key infrastructure like cell towers and fiber cable. “You can see the potential impacts of climate change overlaid on that visually,” Carroll says. Right now, the company is starting small and the map only covers the southeastern United States. “They’ve been hit extremely hard the last few years with severe weather events, and we have significant infrastructure there as well,” Carroll says. Ultimately, the goal is to manage the company’s risks as it looks toward the future, Carroll says. “We’re a company that’s been around for over 100 years, and we plan to be around at least another 100 years,” he says. Knowing where to place cell towers, for example, to avoid flooding or extreme winds could mean having to shell out less money for repairs in the future. “We believe that there are long term financial benefits to doing this.” Correction: Rao Kotamarthi is the chief climate scientist in the environmental sciences division, not the chief scientist of the environmental sciences division. Source
  4. AT&T, Comcast successfully test SHAKEN/STIR protocol for fighting robocalls AT&T and Comcast successfully test first SHAKEN/STIR-authenticated call between two different networks. AT&T and Comcast announced today that they've successfully tested what they believe to be the first SHAKEN/STIR-authenticated call between two different telecom networks. SHAKEN/STIR stands for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR), and is a protocol for authenticating phone calls with the help of cryptographic certificates. The protocol was created to address the problem of call spoofing --calls that claim to come from a number or network, but they don't. SHAKEN/STIR works by the network operator where the call has originated "signining" the call using a certificate. The telecom operator on the receiving end of the call can verify it came from the network the call claims it originated by looking at its certificate and making a few cryptographic checks. Image: TransNexus Work on the SHAKEN/STIR protocol has been underway for a while, and until now, several telecom operators have tested it already, but with calls inside their respective networks, where they could verify that everything was working as intended and calls were getting signed correctly when made, and verified the right way when received. Today, AT&T and Comcast said they carried out the first SHAKEN/STIR call made between two different networks. "The test used phones on the companies' consumer networks - not in a lab or restricted to special equipment," AT&T said in a press release. "It was conducted March 5, between AT&T Phone digital home service and Comcast's Xfinity Voice home phone service." "The calls were successfully authenticated and verified using the SHAKEN/STIR protocol - believed to be an industry first for calls between separate providers," the US telco said. The US Federal Telecommunications Committee has been pushing for SHAKEN/STIR's adoption and has imposed the end of 2019 as a hard deadline for networks implementing the protocol. SHAKEN/STIR won't help stop robocalls (spam phone calls) completely, but they will help networks and end users spot them easier. Telcos will be able to mark calls that not have been SHAKEN/STIR-signed as suspicious and consumer will be able to act on these warnings and turn down calls. Further, SHAKEN/STIR will also be useful in fighting other types of telephony-based fraud, which is estimated to have caused losses of around $38.1 billion to telcos and their consumers. Source
  5. AT&T already launched its initial mobile 5G network in parts of 12 U.S. cities last December, but it’s now preparing for full nationwide coverage — a dauntingly large task that its millimeter wave small cells won’t be able to handle alone. This morning, the carrier revealed that it will “offer nationwide 5G coverage with our lower band spectrum,” specifically the sub-6GHz frequencies discussed in our interview with AT&T VP Gordon Mansfield yesterday. Above: Netgear's Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot is the first AT&T mobile 5G device, and already available for purchase. While the announcement isn’t entirely surprising given that AT&T began to distinguish between “5G” and “5G+” in December, noting that it planned to call high-speed millimeter wave service “5G+” and offer it only in select high-traffic areas, this is the first official confirmation that AT&T’s nationwide 5G network will rely upon aggregating lower-bandwidth radio signals, which spread more widely from larger towers. Rival T-Mobile has similarly said that it will use low-bandwidth towers for its nationwide 5G network, while Verizon has focused largely on “true 5G” using high-capacity millimeter wave spectrum. Even so, all of the carriers will eventually rely upon more than one radio band to provide 5G service. Each carrier is expected to convert some of its existing LTE spectrum into 5G spectrum, though there’s a substantial likelihood of a speed penalty for doing so — enough that there could be a noticeable performance gap between millimeter wave and sub-6GHz 5G networks. AT&T specifically says that it plans to “begin deploying that lower band spectrum in the second half of this year,” suggesting that the allocation of some existing LTE spectrum for 5G will happen sooner rather than later, supporting an already announced Samsung sub-6GHz smartphone. In the transition from 4G to 5G, AT&T says that it has brought two interim technologies into more markets than expected: 1Gbps LTE-LAA is now in parts of 55 cities, with its controversially named “5G Evolution” or “5G E” — actually just 4G LTE-Advanced — in over 400 markets, offering roughly 400Mbps speeds on select 4G devices. Towers with the 5G E hardware will be capable of flipping to actual 5G service in the near future, but until then will confuse 4G users into believing that they’re using 5G technologies. AT&T also said that it is expanding its agreement with AR purveyor Magic Leap to include business solutions, including manufacturing, retail, and health care applications. Magic Leap’s current-generation hardware has no cellular hardware, but the company is expected to offer a 5G version in the future, in partnership with AT&T. Source
  6. Internal documents obtained by Motherboard show that the company is preparing for layoffs—megamergers, deregulation, and tax breaks aren’t providing the public benefits AT&T promised. AT&T is preparing for yet another significant round of layoffs according to internal documents obtained by Motherboard. The staff reductions come despite billions in tax breaks and regulatory favors AT&T promised would dramatically boost both investment and job creation. A source at AT&T who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly told Motherboard that company leadership is planning what it’s calling a “geographic rationalization” and employment “surplus” reduction that will consolidate some aspects of AT&T operations in 10 major operational hubs in New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Washington State, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Washington, DC. A spokesperson for AT&T confirmed to Motherboard that it is planning to “adjust” its workforce. While AT&T has yet to come up with a final, formal internal tally for this new round of looming layoffs, AT&T employees worry the staff reductions could prove to be significant, especially outside of these core areas. Managers are being briefed on the plans now, though AT&T isn’t expected to formally announce the specifics until they’re finalized later this month. The staff reductions were first announced in an internal memo sent to managers last Friday by Jeff McElfresh, President, Technology & Operations at AT&T. “To win in this new world, we must continue to lower costs and keep getting faster, leaner, and more agile,” McElfresh told employees. “This includes reductions in our organization, and others across the company, which will begin later this month and take place over several months.” The ongoing consolidation isn’t surprising for a company that’s attempting to pivot from curmudgeonly-old phone company to sexy new media brand via its acquisition of Time Warner. AT&T’s desperate to shed old DSL customers it doesn’t want to upgrade, and instead want to utilize those resources for its pivot into streaming video over wireless. This news comes in the wake of AT&T receiving a $20 billion windfall last quarter courtesy of the Trump administration tax breaks. That’s in addition to the friendlier environment AT&T finds itself in as a result of the Trump administration’s assault on consumer protections ranging from net neutrality to broadband privacy guidelines. In a memo of talking points advising managers on how to address employee concerns obtained by Motherboard, AT&T attempts to explain away the disconnect between the company’s words and its actions. “What we’ve said was that AT&T planned to invest an additional $1 billion in the United States this year as a result of tax reform, and that research shows that every $1 billion in capital invested in the telecom industry creates about 7,000 good-paying jobs for American workers, across the broader economy,” the memo states. But wireless sector investment actually declined last year, with most of the savings from regulatory favors and tax breaks going instead toward stock buybacks, executive compensation, or to pay off the mammoth debt accumulated by a series of AT&T megamergers many consumers and employees didn’t want in the first place, critics charge. When contacted for comment, AT&T confirmed that the company was planning another round of staff reductions, but insisted that any layoffs would only impact a very small portion of the company’s overall workforce. “We are hiring to meet the needs of the growth areas of our business,” the company told Motherboard. “In fact, we hired more than 20,000 new employees last year and more than 17,000 the year before. In cases where we do have to adjust our workforce, we take steps to lessen the effect on employees.” But outside analysis and union officials contest these numbers. AT&T’s offshoring efforts have resulted in 44 closed call centers and 16,000 lost US jobs since 2011. And despite AT&T CEO Randall Stephen promising 7,000 high-paying jobs thanks to the Trump tax cuts, a new report released this week by the Communications Workers of America claims 10,700 US-based union jobs have been eliminated in the last year alone. Thanks to a reduction of future AT&T tax liabilities in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, AT&T saw profits of $29.5 billion in 2017, up from $13 billion in 2016. The permanently-lower tax rate should net AT&T an additional $3 billion annually in perpetuity, the CWA report states. Similar windfalls have been enjoyed by Verizon, which has also responded not with raises or hiring, but staff reductions. AT&T initially insisted it had doled out $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 employees as a direct result of the Trump tax cuts. It was later revealed that these bonuses had already been negotiated as part of unrelated union negotiations. Even then, the $200 million expenditure from the bonuses amounted to just 7 percent of AT&T’s expected annual benefit from the cuts, the report found. "Despite its strong financial position and promises to invest in its American workforce, AT&T has shifted much of its employment away from good, family-supporting jobs and towards a low-wage model that undermines the quality of its customer service and its standing as a good corporate citizen," the CWA said in this week’s report. Granted none of this is really new. Both AT&T and Verizon were widely criticized back in 2014 when it was similarly found that telecom tax breaks didn’t result in increased investment or job creation. AT&T’s promises of “synergies” in the wake of its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner have proven to be similarly hollow. And the industry’s false claims regarding the benefits of killing net neutrality are well documented. Someday, younger generations may want to seriously reconsider America’s historical obsession with blindly throwing tax breaks, subsidies, and deregulatory favors at companies in exchange for benefits that seem to never actually materialize. Until then, we seem intent on repeating the same mistakes, having learned little to nothing from experience. Source
  7. from the innovation! dept While AT&T's marketing wing often likes to pat itself on the back for "innovation," the company's real skill set revolves around finding creative and ways to nickel-and-dime its own customers. Like the multiple times the company was caught aiding drug dealing directory assistance scammers, IP Relay credit card scammers, or crammers because it was getting a cut of the profits. Or the time the company started charging everybody more money for broadband if they wanted to protect their own personal privacy. Or the company's well-documented net neutrality shenanigans. This week, AT&T's under fire yet again for some new bill changes that will, once again, result in users paying the company significantly more money. More specifically, the company has announced that it will now keep broadband and TV customers' money if you cancel in the middle of a billing cycle: Interestingly, the same company that has whined fairly incessantly about the logistical impossibility of adhering to state level privacy or net neutrality rules in the wake of federal repeals (a problem its own lobbyists created), isn't imposing the new rate system on users in states with tougher consumer protection standards: Standing alone this may not be that big a deal, but cumulatively AT&T's nickel-and-diming matters very much to consumers. You'll recall AT&T just got done jacking up streaming TV prices on the heels of its massive merger with Time Warner, just like deal critics had warned. AT&T then quickly doubled an already bogus "administrative fee" on the company's wireless customers, alone netting AT&T an additional estimated $800 million per year. AT&T's now hinting it will raise streaming prices even higher (AT&T's version of competition). This is of course on top of existing TV and broadband rate hikes, usage caps, hidden fees, and other soaring consumer costs. Most of this is occurring for two reasons. One, AT&T's desperately trying to bounce back from the utterly massive debt load it incurred from the one-two punch of the DirecTV and Time Warner mergers. As is usually the case, the one paying for our mindless merger mania is usually... you. Two, because AT&T and other telecom and media giants have been on a tear effectively neutering all federal oversight of their efforts, there's nobody really in power interested in doing much about it. The above example makes it pretty clear why AT&T and Ajit Pai have also tried to neuter state consumer protection authority. Getting ripped off in this fashion is the price tag for the nation's mindless obsession with merger mania, and the entirely false, yet oddly persistent, dogma that blindly deregulating the telecom sector somehow creates a free market connectivity Utopia. After several decades of this approach clearly not working in telecom you'd think more people would be keyed into the fact that letting natural monopolies dictate policy only really benefits investors and executives. But our collective, almost willful ignorance on this subject is nothing if not stubbornly persistent. Source
  8. “We’ve launched our last satellite,” John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, said in a meeting with analysts on Nov. 29. The AT&T executive effectively declared the end of the satellite-TV era with that statement. AT&T owns DirecTV, the US’s largest satellite company—and second largest TV provider overall, behind Comcast. DirecTV will continue offering satellite-TV service—it had nearly 20 million satellite video subscribers as of September, per company filings. But the company will focus on growing its online video business instead, Donovan said. It has a new set-top box, where people can get the same TV service they’d get with satellite, through an internet-connected box they can install themselves. It expects that box to become a greater share of its new premium-TV service installations in the first half of 2019. It also sells cheaper, TV packages with fewer channels through its DirecTV Now and WatchTV streaming services, which work with many smart TVs and streaming media players like Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices. The practice of getting TV through satellite dishes propped up in backyards and perched on rooftops first took hold in the US in the last 1970s and early 1980s, after TV networks like HBO and Turner Broadcasting System started sending TV signals to cable providers via satellites. People in areas without cable or broadcast TV began putting up their own dishes to receive the TV signals, and that grew into a TV business of its own. But in recent years, consumers have shifted to new digital TV offerings like Netflix and Hulu or the live, PlayStation Vue service. That shift away from traditional TV services has hit satellite particularly hard. The US pay-TV industry reportedly lost a record number of TV subscribers last quarter, and the satellite services from DirecTV and Dish Network (which also owns internet-TV service Sling TV) were the hardest hit. In 2017, AT&T lost 554,000 satellite video subscribers, and it continued to hemorrhage customers this year, according to company filings. “He’s not going to launch more satellites,” AT&T’s top boss, chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, said of Donovan, during the meeting. “We’re kind of done.” Source
  9. An HBO blackout in and of itself is notable since it’s never happened before in the network’s more than 40 years. But it could have deeper implications as AT&T plans to fight off a challenge to its Time Warner merger. Over the summer, Judge Richard Leon ruled that AT&T could proceed as planned with its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, and he placed no conditions on the deal. That decision flew in the face of the U.S. Justice Department’s attempt the block the transaction, a move that garnered support from rival pay TV providers like Dish Network. The DOJ has since filed to appeal that decision and oral arguments for that appeal are scheduled to take place Dec. 6. In the lead up to that court date, AT&T has a PR crisis on its hands. This week, HBO and Cinemax—both part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia—went dark on Dish Network and Sling TV. A war of words quickly erupted between Dish and HBO. Dish accused AT&T of using its new market power to shut out pay TV competitors (AT&T owns Dish satellite rival DirecTV) and harm consumers. "Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers," said Andy LeCuyer, senior vice president of programming at Dish, in a statement. "It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors.” HBO countered, accusing Dish of being “extremely difficult” and not negotiating in good faith. “Past behavior shows that removing services from their customers is becoming all too common a negotiating tactic for them,” said HBO in a statement. Now WarnerMedia and the DOJ have weighed in on the impasse, which has affected a reported 2.5 million HBO subscribers on Dish Network. “This behavior, unfortunately, is consistent with what the Department of Justice predicted would result from the merger,” a DOJ representative told Reuters. “We are hopeful the Court of Appeals will correct the errors of the District Court.” WarnerMedia came back with an accusation that the DOJ-Dish collaboration that took place during the first attempt to block the Time Warner merger is continuing with Dish making the “tactical decision” to drop HBO. History seems to side with HBO in this argument. HBO has never gone dark on a distributor before and likely wouldn’t want to pull its service since it would instantly cost it every subscriber it has on a distributor’s platform. On the other hand, Dish has an extensive reputation for taking carriage disputes to the channel blackout stage. During the AT&T-Time Warner trial, AT&T’s lawyers dug up numerous comments Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen had made in the past regarding channel blackouts, including a quote about how “real negotiation starts when we go dark.” But HBO going dark on an AT&T competitor’s pay TV service just months after AT&T completed its acquisition and for the first time in HBO’s history certainly does look like the kind of issue the DOJ and opponents like Dish said might happen. Consumer group Public Knowledge echoed this sentiment, noting that AT&T has the incentive to black out popular channels like HBO on competitors since it could drive consumers to DirecTV. “In ruling against the DOJ, Judge Richard Leon dismissed this concern. While it is difficult from the outside to determine the different factors at play in any particular DOJ dispute, the circumstances suggest that the government's case was correct. This is another reason the DC Court of Appeals should reverse the decision allowing the merger,” said John Bergmayer, senior counsel at Public Knowledge, in a statement. For now, Dish is offering credits to affected subscribers and HBO is pointing people toward its direct-to-consumer services to help mitigate the initial fallout. But in the meantime, AT&T is facing a significant bump in the road and a big potential headache once the DOJ’s appeal officially kicks off next month. Source
  10. In AT&T’s latest move to streamline WarnerMedia, Turner and Warner Bros. Digital Networks announced Friday that the FilmStruck indie, arthouse and classic film streaming service will shut down next month. The FilmStruck business will cease U.S. and international operations on Nov. 29, 2018, and the service stopped allowing signups on Oct. 26. A Turner rep declined to comment on how many employees will be affected by the closure, or provide info on how many employees work on FilmStruck. In a statement, Turner and WB Digital Networks said, “We’re incredibly proud of the creativity and innovations produced by the talented and dedicated teams who worked on FilmStruck over the past two years. While FilmStruck has a very loyal fanbase, it remains largely a niche service. We plan to take key learnings from FilmStruck to help shape future business decisions in the direct-to-consumer space and redirect this investment back into our collective portfolios.” The shutdown of FilmStruck, which debuted in November 2016, comes after two other WarnerMedia digital units have gotten the axe. Warner Bros. Digital Networks’ DramaFever, a subscription VOD service specializing in Korean dramas, was abruptly shut down on Oct. 16. One week ago, Turner announced that it was pulling the plug on edgy digital-content and TV studio Super Deluxe. AT&T earlier this month signaled that it would move to restructure the WarnerMedia video-streaming portfolio. As part of announcing plans for a broad subscription-streaming entertainment service anchored by HBO that would pull in content from other parts of WarnerMedia, AT&T said it would be “consolidating resources from sub-scale D2C [direct-to-consumer] efforts.” A source familiar with AT&T’s strategy said the telco is looking to eliminate peripheral projects that aren’t major producers of revenue. “They felt Time Warner overall had too many initiatives,” the exec said. “[AT&T] have their hands full. They have no time to think about, ‘What do we do with this growth property?'” FilmStruck offered a lineup of some 1,800 contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films and also was the exclusive internet-streaming home to the Criterion Collection of movies. Earlier this year, it added Warner Bros.’ library of classic films; WB shut down the Warner Archive service and migrated customers over to FilmStruck. The service was priced at $10.99 per month with access to the Criterion Collection library, and $6.99 monthly without it. FilmStruck was developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in conjunction with Warner Bros. Digital Networks, overseen by Coleman Breland, Turner’s president of content experiences and president of TCM and FilmStruck. The companies declined to disclose how many subscribers FilmStruck had signed up. Titles on FilmStruck had included “Casablanca,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Singin’ In the Rain,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Music Man,” “Bringing Up Baby,” “The Thin Man” and “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” from Warner Bros. Other movies that were available on FilmStruck previously had included “Babette’s Feast,” “Blow Out,” “Boyhood,” “Breaker Morant,” “Chicago,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “My Life as a Dog,” “Our Song,” “The Player,” “A Room with a View,” “Seven Samurai,” “The Seventh Seal,” “Thelma & Louise,” “The Times of Harvey Milk” and “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” On Friday, the FilmStruck site posted this message: “We regret to inform you that FilmStruck will be shutting down. Our last day of service will be November 29, 2018, and we are currently no longer enrolling new subscribers. All current FilmStruck subscribers will receive an email with details about your account and the refund process as applicable. Please see the options below for more information or email the customer service team at [email protected]” Turner and WB Digital Networks launched FilmStruck internationally this year. The debut launch was in the the U.K., where it rolled out in conjunction with cinema operator Curzon. In June, FilmStruck launched in France and Spain with local films and titles from the Warner Bros. and Criterion libraries. Turner had appointed Kerensa Samanidis, formerly of the British Film Institute, to run the service internationally. Source
  11. Here are eight AT&T-owned locations, buildings that are reportedly central to the NSA's internet spying purposes. Have you ever wondered what locations on American soil serve as backbone or “peering” facilities that the NSA might secretly be using for eavesdropping purposes? The Intercept revealed eight such AT&T-owned locations: two in California, one in Washington, another in Washington, D.C., one in New York, one in Texas, one in Illinois, and one in Georgia. You might pass by these AT&T buildings having no idea that they are “central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.” While neither AT&T nor NSA spokespeople would confirm that the NSA has tapped into data at these eight locations that normally route telecom companies’ data traffic, former AT&T employees did confirm the locations of the “backbone node with peering” facilities. AT&T refers to the peering sites as “Service Node Routing Complexes.” The Intercept explained various code-named NSA surveillance programs, previously made public thanks to Edward Snowden, which seem to have taken place at these eight AT&T facilities. In addition, the Intercept article cites “a top-secret NSA memo” that “has not been disclosed before;” the memo “explained that the agency was collecting people’s messages en masse if a single one were found to contain a ‘selector’ – like an email address or phone number – that featured on a target list.” The NSA's past activity There’s a bit of a history lesson included in the article, going over how the NSA was hoovering emails if they mentioned information about surveillance targets, including domestic communications that violated citizens’ Fourth Amendment right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. The NSA moved to using a cautionary banner that warned analysts not to read the communication unless it had been lawfully obtained. The NSA acknowledged the violations in April 2017. The messages had reportedly been part of upstream surveillance allowed under Executive Order 12333. After receiving a NSA memo via Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request, the ACLU previously warned that NSA analysts might even be “laughing at your sex tape” thanks to surveillance under EO 12333. At any rate, according to The Intercept, the eight AT&T buildings that have secretly served as NSA spying hubs for monitoring “billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats” – codenamed FAIRVIEW for NSA surveillance – are located at: 30 E Street Southwest in Washington, D.C. 1122 3rd Avenue in Seattle, Washington 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco, California 811 10th Avenue in New York City 420 South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, California 4211 Bryan Street in Dallas, Texas 10 South Canal Street in Chicago, Illinois 51 Peachtree Center Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia Source
  12. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - AT&T Inc, the No. 2 wireless carrier, on Thursday closed its $85 billion deal to acquire media company Time Warner Inc after it reached an agreement with U.S. antitrust regulators. Coaxial TV Cables are seen in front of AT&T The deal, first announced in October 2016, was opposed by President Donald Trump. AT&T was sued by the Justice Department, but won approval from a judge to move forward with the deal on Tuesday following a six-week trial. The Justice Department still has 60 days to appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon. AT&T agreed to temporarily manage Time Warner’s Turner networks separately from DirecTV, including setting prices and managing personnel, as part of the deal approved by Judge Richard Leon late Thursday. The conditions agreed to by AT&T would remain in effect until Feb. 28, 2019, the conclusion of the case or an appeal. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on Tuesday that the deal to marry AT&T’s wireless and satellite businesses with Time Warner’s movies and television shows was legal under antitrust law. The Justice Department had argued the deal would harm consumers. U.S. President Donald Trump, a frequent critic of Time Warner’s CNN coverage, denounced the deal when it was announced in October 2016. The fact that Turner, which includes CNN, will be run separately from DirecTV makes a stay unnecessary, said Seth Bloom, a veteran of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division who is now in private practice. In its lawsuit aimed at stopping the deal, filed in November 2017, the Justice Department said that AT&T’s ownership of both DirecTV and Time Warner, especially its Turner subsidiary, would give AT&T unfair leverage against rival pay TV providers that relied on content like CNN and HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” “This is clearly leaving open the door for the DOJ (Justice Department) to appeal,” Bloom said. “If Turner is run separately, they don’t really need a stay.” The AT&T ruling is expected to trigger a wave of mergers in the media sector, which has been upended by companies like Netflix Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google. The first to come was Comcast Corp’s $65 billion bid on Wednesday for the entertainment assets of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. AT&T had been worried about closing its deal ahead of a June 21 deadline if the government won a stay pending an appeal. Any stay could take the deal beyond a June 21 deadline for completing the merger, which could allow Time Warner to walk away or renegotiate the proposed transaction with AT&T. The government may have a difficult time winning on appeal because of the way Judge Leon wrote his opinion, four antitrust experts said. “I don’t think this would be overturned. It is so rooted in the facts that I would be surprised if an appellate court overturned such a fact-laden opinion,” said Michael Carrier, who teaches law at Rutgers. In a scathing opinion after a six-week trial, Leon found little to support the government's arguments that the deal would harm consumers, calling the evidence for one argument against the deal "gossamer thin" and another "poppycock." The merger, including debt, would be the fourth largest deal ever attempted in the global telecom, media and entertainment space, according to Thomson Reuters data. It would also be the 12th largest deal in any sector, the data showed. Source
  13. Approval of the deal pushes government to the sidelines and encourages media, tech and telecom companies to find partners to compete against Silicon Valley. Antitrust approval of AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner could clear the way for a wave of deals. As long as the big tech is the enemy, companies are pretty much free to buy, sell and trade assets to keep from falling behind. A federal judge said as much when he approved AT&T ’s T 0.50% $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner . Judge Richard Leon isn’t wrong that Silicon Valley giants like Netflix , Apple and Amazon.com pose real threats to media companies. For consumers, that may mean higher prices for services they buy from AT&T and Time Warner now, all in the name of competition. For investors, this means a wave of deals in which companies will invoke threats from tech giants as excuses to spend billions ostensibly to fight back. The first example could come quickly when Comcast decides how much to bid for assets owned by 21st Century Fox , which has agreed to sell them to Walt Disney . The Trump administration’s Justice Department, which opposed the AT&T-Time Warner deal on the grounds that it would lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers, will have a tough time trying to stop the frenzy. The government may still choose to appeal the decision, though Judge Richard Leon advised it not to. But the Justice Department’s antitrust vigor is now considerably diminished. If Judge Leon had to make this ruling even just a few years ago, the outcome would probably have been different. In 2011, he was reluctant to approve Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal, a similar merging of distribution channels with media content. The deal went through only after Comcast agreed to strict conditions to protect consumers. The ruling suggests Judge Leon is adapting to the times. Netflix, which had a market value of around $20.6 billion in 2014, is now worth $158.5 billion, surpassing the market value of all the legacy media companies. Amazon and Apple, which both have market caps bigger than every major media company combined, pose a similar problem. Though media isn’t their core business, both are spending billions to create original content, drawing top Hollywood talent away from the incumbents. Any wave of deal making risks going out of control. Time Warner, after all, was one-half of one of the worst mergers in history when combined with AOL at the top of the tech bubble. Comcast shares fell after the decision as investors worried it would overpay for the Fox assets to beat out Disney, which has offered $52.5 billion in stock. CBS and Viacom , whose recent merger talks have been complicated by quarrels and lawsuits, may feel renewed pressure to consolidate. That doesn’t necessarily mean with each other. Now that vertical deal-making has been blessed, Verizon or Charter Communications could seek to acquire CBS. Other assets like Lions Gate or AMC could get snapped up, too. Cash-rich tech companies could also join the party. Judge Leon made a well-reasoned decision. Media CEOs may not do the same. Source
  14. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - AT&T Inc (T.N) said on Thursday that it is negotiating with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to resolve a 2014 complaint that claimed the company offered deceptive “unlimited” mobile phone data plans. “We have decided not to seek review by the Supreme Court, to focus instead on negotiating a fair resolution of the case with the Federal Trade Commission,” AT&T spokesman Mike Balmoris said. The FTC had charged that the company misled millions of consumers by charging them for unlimited data plans but reducing data speeds or “throttling” them if they reached certain data usage levels. The FTC did not immediately comment. A federal appeals court in San Francisco in February reinstated the FTC lawsuit, which had been thrown out after AT&T argued that it was exempt from FTC regulations and that the Federal Communications Commission had jurisdiction. The Federal Communications Commission separately in June 2015 proposed a $100 million fine for AT&T for misleading millions of customers about unlimited data plans. The FCC has never moved to finalize the fine. The FCC said at the time that it was the largest such fine proposal. AT&T, which said it would “vigorously dispute the FCC’s assertions,” said that the FCC had previously deemed the practice a legitimate and reasonable way to manage its network and that it had been “fully transparent with our customers, providing notice in multiple ways and going well beyond the FCC’s disclosure requirements.” AT&T said it had disclosed its slowdown practices to consumers over bill statement notifications, text messages and other means. In February, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the appeals court decision “reaffirms that the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police Internet service providers” after the Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era net neutrality rules takes effect. The 2015 net neutrality rules will expire on June 11. Source
  15. The broadband providers said they don't collect customer data unless customers allow it. Comcast and AT&T moved to reassure their customers Friday that they have not and will not collect and sell their personal data. Both companies made these statements a few days after the House of Representatives passed a resolution that would prevent tougher Federal Communications Commission rules on data collection from taking effect. The Senate passed the resolution earlier and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law in the coming days. The bill will allow broadband providers to continue to share customers' web browsing history and other personal data with marketers without first getting permission. The FCC, under former President Barack Obama, in October enacted rules that required broadband providers to get their customers' consent before they could share "sensitive" information about them with marketers and other third parties. The rules had not yet gone into effect. Comcast and AT&T, weighing into the heated issue on customers privacy and data collection, both said Friday that they've never collected and sold customer data, unless explicitly allowed to do so by a customer. "We do not sell our broadband customers' individual web browsing history," Gerard Lewis, Comcast's deputy general counsel, wrote. "We did not do it before the FCC's rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so." He added that Comcast will revise its privacy policy "to make more clear and prominent that, contrary to the many inaccurate statements and reports, we do not sell our customers' individual web browsing information to third parties and that we do not share sensitive information unless our customers have affirmatively opted in to allow that to occur." AT&T's Bob Quinn, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, offered a similar statement, saying his company's privacy policy is the same now as it was before the new FCC rules were passed. That policy expressly states that AT&T "will not sell your personal information to anyone, for any purpose. Period." It adds: "You have choices about how AT&T uses your information for marketing purposes." Quinn said it's "flatly untrue" that Congress' actions would eliminate all legal protections on the use of customer information and argued "some folks are ignoring the facts." Despite these statements, consumer advocates have argued that the new FCC regulations will ensure broadband providers can't sell information about where you've been online, what you're buying, the apps you're using, and where you're located to marketers and other third parties, like insurance companies. Source
  16. According to the service provider, including the eleven regions listed above, AT&T’s gigabit offering will be available in 67 regions, of which it plans to have 45 of them covered by the end of 2016. By the middle of 2019, the service will be available to more than 12.5 million “locations,” assuming the plan progresses on schedule. Speaking about this plan, AT&T Chief Marketing Officer for AT&T Entertainment Group David Christopher said: source
  17. AT&T has confirmed a security data breach in which attackers have compromised the security of a number of its mobile customers and stolen personal information including Social Security numbers and call records. Back in April this year, AT&T suffered a data breach in which some of its customer information, including birth dates and Social Security numbers had been inappropriately accessed by three employees of one of its third-party vendors, in order to generate codes that could be used to unlock devices. Moreover, the hackers would have also been able to access its users’ credit report with Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) during the process without proper authorization, that means the information related to what subscribers purchase from AT&T would also have been compromised. The Dallas-based telecommunications giant did not specify the number of customers or type of information affected by this data breach, but state law requires such disclosures if an incident affects at least 500 customers in California. Neither it revealed that why it took so long to confirm the breach. AT&T sent a letter to the California Attorney General explaining the recent data security breach to its mobile customers, and said that the third-party contractor’s employees who were responsible for the breach were terminated and will no longer for the company. “AT&T’s commitment to customer privacy and data security are top priorities, and we take those commitments very seriously. We recently determined that employees of one of our service providers violated our strict privacy and security guidelines by accessing your account without authorization between April 9 and April 21, 2014, and, while doing so, would have been able to view your social security number and possibly your date of birth,” the letter says. Many mobile phone providers are provided by carriers with a software lock that prevents the devices from being used on other competitors’ networks. AT&T allows its users to typically request an "unlock code" that unlock their devices from its network and to do this the customers have to provide their own account information to verify their identities. According to the company, the company discovered the data breach on 19 May, and it believes the alleged employees were trying to obtain the unlock codes of the devices so that they could remove devices from AT&T's network to other cellphone networks around the world for second-hand markets resale. “AT&T believes the employees accessed your account as part of an effort to request codes from AT&T that are used to unlock AT&T mobile phones in the secondary mobile phone market so that those devices can then be activated with other telecommunications providers.” AT&T had reported the matter about the data breach to the law enforcement of United States and thereby announced that it would offer one year of free credit monitoring service for affected users. Source
  18. It is official, guys – the Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom is coming to AT&T and it won't be long until the handset lands on the carrier's shelves. Samsung's camera-centric smartphone (or camera that can also make calls, if you will) is scheduled to launch on November 8, priced at $199.99 on a 2-year contract. Alternatively, the device can be purchased via the carrier's frequent upgrade plan, AT&T Next. The latter option puts a Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom in your hands in exchange for 20 equal monthly payments of $25 each. The Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom is an Android 4.2 smartphone that can easily put a basic point-and-shoot camera to shame. (Check out our S4 zoom camera comparison and see how it performs.) It features a 16MP camera with optical image stabilization, 10x optical zoom, a dedicated 2-stage camera key, and manual camera controls that let you fine tune the image to your liking. The hardware under the hood, however, is not as impressive. There's a dual-core Exynos 4212 processor running the show and a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 540 by 960 pixels gracing the handset's front. Being an AT&T smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom can fly on the carrier's LTE network, allowing you to quickly post those super-awesome images right after you take them. Those who purchase a Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom on a 2-year contract or on an AT&T Next installment may take advantage of a promo letting them grab a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for free – be it on a 2-year contract or with it added to an existing mobile share plan for $10 per month extra. Also, trading in a used phone when purchasing the Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom entitles you to an AT&T promotion card worth a minimum of $100. The credit can be used towards the purchase of a connected tablet, new accessories, or a wireless service bill. Interested, Watch the Promo video below source: phonearena
  19. Samsung is bringing the Galaxy S4 mini to the United States next month, where it'll be sold on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular. While pricing hasn't been announced, it's safe to assume that — like the Galaxy S III mini — it'll be offered as a less expensive option to the flagship smartphone from which the device gets its name. Between the value of the Galaxy S4's branding and the appeal of what'll presumably be a lower price, it's easy to imagine that the S4 mini will find some success when it debuts in the US. It is a distinctly lower-end smartphone though, having an older processor and a qHD resolution display. Oddly enough, the Galaxy S4 mini will be coming to the US just two months after the Galaxy S III mini landed on AT&T. AT&T currently sells that device for $0.99 with a two-year contract, though it's unclear if the S4 mini would take its place or be sold for more. The S4 mini itself was announced back in May, and since then has been made available, but only outside of the US so far. source
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