You Have to Love, Big Dumb Corporations

I saw this article on Ars Technica about an addition to AT&T’s new Terms of Service. According to the new terms what I’m about to say could get my service canceled. Well, if the last month is any indication it won’t be that big of a deal.

So at the end of August, I decided to get DSL and cancel my cable and internet service with Ygnition. Ygnition uses a Dish Network feed and I imagine their home office is a temporary building with satellite dishes halfway mounted to the side of the building.

Enough about them. So I signed up for the cheapest phone service and DSL I could get. A few days later, I was contacted that everything had been connected and was ready to go. However, my DSL was not working. So I called tech support. They walked me through all the basic steps and they couldn’t figure it out. They gave me some stupid excuse and told me to try again in a few days. A few days passed and nothing. So then I called back. This technician told me she couldn’t check my line because there was an outage. The only problem is that my DSL was not working before the outage. So the next time I called they asked me if I had a dial tone. I don’t know. I don’t own a landline. I haven’t had a landline in a year and a half. I had one in Louisiana but that was only because I had DSL there. I owned a phone but it was never plugged in because I didn’t want to get telemarketers. So I broke down and bought a phone. No dial tone.

So the technician ran a test and told me that my line had not been connected at the central office. He put in a trouble ticket. Two days later, still no dice. So the next technician told me they could send out a technician but if they had to come inside it would cost $30 for the trip and then $99 for the first half hour. I told them to send the technician but I was not going to spend another $100 for service I have been unable to use for the last month. Then he tried to sell me on the $87 package that would cover the inside repairs. The only reason I signed up for DSL is because it was $25. Why would i want to pay 4 times that. So I called back this week and they told me that if you don’t have phone service for more than 3 months then they disconnect a device in the complex phone box. So basically they break the phone so they have to charge me to fix what they broke. The technician told me that they don’t charge $99 ever for their repair work. But he couldn’t give me a hard number on the costs. I was frustrated by this point and I just want my DSL to work, so I told them to do it. So when I got home from class today, I had DSL service.

And then I listened to TWIT, Episode 115, where they also mentioned the change to the terms. According to the changes,

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.

So because I just wrote about how their support is horrible and it took them a month to fix my DSL, they could terminate my service.

As Patrick Norton and the Ars Technica article pointed out, if AT&T begins down this path they are opening themselves up to a world of economic and legal issues. As an ISP, they are a safe harbor, which means they aren’t held responsible for anything illegal that their users do while online. However, if they begin restricting what goes over the lines then as Patrick Norton pointed out, they become a publishing company and lose their safe harbor status. So then if they allow copyrighted or illegal material through, then they are liable. Plus if they start disconnecting customers, they are going to face a consumer firestorm. So, go ahead AT&T. Cancel my service. I’ll take my money elsewhere and watch as the lawsuits roll in.