Ma AT&T Says Shut-Up And Sing

Not only will they not lay us fiber optic (least Ma Southern Bell never did), AT&T has a kindamaybesorta policy to censor “political” speech during live webcasting. So they tested every possible free speech boundary


  1. GAWire says:

    Who exactly owns the internet airwaves? Who allows that cell phone to connect? Who provides the dial tone when you pick up your phone?

    The gov’t may monitor and regulate these things, but it doesn’t own them.

    So, if at&t doesn’t want to broadcast some grungy looking musician that really offers nothing but a couple of good songs from the mid-90’s talking about something no one really cares to hear about, then don’t they have the right to do it?!?

    If you don’t want the company bringing you the actual webcast to cut it off during parts, then go to the freaking show in person and it won’t be a problem. Otherwise, realize that this is a free market economy where a company can censure anything it wants to.

    No one has a RIGHT to webcasts or the internet for that matter. If you don’t like it, get with Al Gore and create your own version of the internet that everyone has a right to.

    If you’re made because you paid for service, then be sure to read the fine print next time. They broadcast it – they can turn it off whenever they want.

    Cry about it some more.

  2. GAWire says:

    The great thing about our free market economy is that at any time you want, you can start your own internet cable provider and broadcast anything you please.

    Then, when you takeover adequate market share, you can knock at&t off the top. And you will be queen of the airwaves.

    Until then, pay or go without. Again, you have no right to complain about their service – you can only leave …. or again, start your own.

    Oh and by the way, the FEC and SEC approve any and all acquisitions (SEC only in the case of public companies, of course), including the approval of at&t/AT&T/SBC/Bell South/Cingular, etc acquisitions.

    They would disagree that there is “no other choice.”

    If there’s “no other choice” in your area, you can move at any time.

    Isn’t our free market economy a beautiful place?

  3. GAWire says:

    Who’s talking about censorship? I’m talking supply and demand. Learn it; live it; love it.

    The only thing more idiotic about my post is your complaints about something you don’t understand … SpaceyG.

  4. GAWire says:

    Btw, I didn’t mean the Federal Elections Commission approves M&A activity … hopefully everyone knows I meant FCC. And, clearly I’m referring to M&A activity in that sector.

  5. SpaceyG says:

    That’s what YOU don’t understand, GAWire… that this is not just an issue about economics and supply and demand and shareholders (of which I was one, of Bellsouth, until I decided they were scum-filth), but this also is an issue about corporate responsibility, free speech, and ethics — of which you seem to possess astonishingly few.

  6. Icarus says:

    Such hostility so early in the morning.

    I could go for GAWire’s point of view if cable had real competition. Ironically, it’s AT&T having pushed through a new law this past session that will finally open GA up to broadband competition.

    I think it’s that upcoming competition, as well as the competition from DirecTV and Dish, that caused AT&Ts profuse apologies after the higher ups at corporate learned about the edits.

  7. SpaceyG says:

    Yeah, you’re right Ic. Enough bad karma first thing in the am. I’m going to get some coffee and do some yoga and mediate for a while. Check out the aviation doc though. It’s pretty cool, and nicely calming and agreeable. We can all return to b-slapping one another around later in the day…

  8. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    Spacey, I was just looking at your blog profile to dig around for some dirt because i sometimes cringe when you post here. But I have to admit, you have some good taste in music. The Jam, that’s a band you don’t hear around here much, if ever. And I just happened to hear the Style Council song last nite on Sat Radio.

  9. Bill Simon says:

    GAWire’s client = AT&T

    Hey, but, don’t dare bother to disclose such info, GAWire…it might cloud people’s interpretation of what you’re saying.

  10. GAWire says:

    souldrift, yes you can … you always can. That’s why the industry is regulated. Again, if you don’t like the company, leave it and start your own. Sound unrealistic? It obviously is not, since at&t does indeed have competition, which has been confirmed by the market and government regulating bodies.

    Icarus, your point is a good one … the market will always balance things out. If at&t is too much in violation of what the market demands in terms of free speech, then competitors will come in and take its market dominance away (a la my argument earlier about how everyone is free to start their own company and attempt to take at&t’s market away … just like others such as DirecTV et al have done to an extent).

    So, it IS all about economics, S/D and all those wonderful things (it always is and if you think otherwise, you’re naive), b/c it is these things that make free speech realistic. It has nothing to do with ethics (at&t owns property and has a right to do what it wants with it, within obvious – there is nothing unethical involved). Let the market fix the situation. You’re right – at&t would not have started the PR spin if they didn’t think there was some possible repercusions that could come about, but my overriding point is that regardless of what YOU think about how THEY handled the concert – it is completely their right to do that. It has nothing to do with corporate responsibility either – they have no responsibility to show you the full concert. If they want to sit there for four hours with just a picture of W’s face, then they can do it.

    Will the market react? Of course. Will the market most likely humble them? Perhaps. Should you realistically be complaining about rights to the internet and all that misinformed bullcrap? Nah.

    Let the market do its job and quit moaning about your rights to something of which you have no ownership.

    Oh and SpaceyG … your example is case in point. You were a shareholder and thus an owner – since you didn’t like some decisions made (whether informed or not), you sold your ownership (i.e., you made a ripple in the market reaction).

    Now we can get into sound investment practices and how activist investing is not necessarily the most financially/economically beneficial route (assuming you are a rational investor) another day.

    I will concede one thing though, which is a point you actually missed. at&t’s ONLY obligation (assuming all legal ones are met) is to the shareholder. Their decisions should be based on the investment goals of the shareholder. Again, if the shareholder doesn’t approve of mgmt, then they can sell and move on (which is just another example of the market balancing micro-inefficiencies).

  11. SpaceyG says:

    Yeah, I’m a music geek if nothing else. Wish I had me some of that satellite radio too. Know what make me cringe? Anonymous commenteers with no blogs of their own who disclose NOTHING about themselves or who they work/shill for. Now that’s creepy, especially when you don’t know who their clients are. (Thanks for the tip, BS, if it is indeed true.)

    Since I have no clients, yet, I have nothing to hide!

  12. CobbGOPer says:

    Screw AT&T. I went to Cingular to get away from those bastards, and what do they do? They buy Cingular back.

    Guess I gotta go to T-Mobile now, cause Sprint’s no better.

  13. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    BTW, help me out with this. why is Atlanta radio so God-awful? If it isn’t a commercial, then it’s a crappy-ass song that was just played 2 hours ago, and will probably be played again on the same station another 12 times the same day.

  14. GAWire says:

    Bill Simon, I have no such obligation. However, if you can prove your claim that at&t is my client, then I will concede. That sure is an interesting claim, though – you seem to be pretty confident.

    Alright, I’ll go ahead and disclose: at&t (NYSE: T) is NOT a client of mine.

  15. rugby_fan says:


    I’d like to start my own telecommunications company that will someday rival AT&T.

    Would you care to give me some money for the many many many millions it will require to start said firm?

    Right, “at any time you want, you can start your own internet cable provider”.

    We have a great system in place but its asinine to suggest one can just go and start any company one desires.

  16. SpaceyG says:

    WRAS is still pretty good. But yeah, everything else sucks big weenies. That’s why I listen to Boortz all day instead of good music. No wonder I get so darn cranky.

  17. GAWire says:

    rugby, welcome to the free market. That is EXACTLY how it works (and is done a thousand times over everyday).

    Show me your business plan and I will absolutely consider investing. I will need 5-7 yr pro forma projections and will most likely be looking at a 30% IRR. Oh, and I will want about 40% equity (depending on risk, this may be higher).

  18. jm says:

    CobbGOPer: I’m in the same boat…. I went to Bellsouth and Cingular after ATT bought my ISP and now they are back as my ISP. Comcast sucks in my area, so I gotta switch again.

  19. SpaceyG says:

    Hey you armchair entrepreneurs: can I be the (highly paid of course) lobbyista gal you will need, one out of zillions, to even begin to THINK about operating a telco in this state? Trust me, you won’t catch ME messin’ around with the numerous Super Christian Bubba legislators we breed like bunnies and bringing shame on your fledgling operation. That’s almost as icky a thought as that of fooling around with PR guys.

  20. Chris says:

    So long as local GOVERNMENT regulates who can run wires and the Imperial Federal GOVERNMENT regulates who can do wireless, then there is no free market in communications.

    Stacy and the liberals say we need more GOVERNMENT to make companies behave better, I say we need less government to make it actually possible to form a competitor.

    Telecom is a capital intensive enough business when you have to buy copper, fiber, and switches. Adding the uncertainty of petty little morons on city councils and all the lawyers fees needed to deal with them and you’ve doubled your capital costs.

    Government is the problem people, not the solution.


  21. rugby_fan says:

    Spacey brings up a point I hadn’t considered.

    Maybe GAWire can edify me on this–what are the legal prohibitions to starting a new telecommunications firm in Georgia.

  22. GAWire says:

    rugby, consult an attorney. I’m sure there would be some steps to be taken. Same for any business sector – each is regulated differently.

    In terms of your $75mm number. I’ll need some cash flow projections (among other things) for that.

  23. GAWire says:

    Let me just be clear about something and get back to the original point: This has nothing to do with me or some claim about at&t being my client. That’s an absurd claim.

    The point of my original argument is that I get tired of people complaining about something they have no right to. No one has a right to the internet [CORRECTION: no one has a right to the internet that is provided by at&t, or any other company. This is a service provided under circamstances and managed by the company, in this case at&t]. That broadcast was made available b/c those that have the infrastructure in place to bring it to you made it available. Thus, if they want to cut it, they can. If shareholders do not like it, then they will pay a price (i.e., PR spin afterwards), as they will if the market doesn’t approve and decides to do something about it.

    Again, if you’re a shareholder and you do not approve, you have a right to depart yourself.

    If you are like most people and are simply a component of the larger market (i.e., customer), then you also have a lot of power – you can go to another provider.

    And just because they are the only provider in your neighborhood or because Comcast sucks does not in any mean that at&t monopolizes the market (in fact, it means they have done their duty to shareholders). Again, the FCC and more importantly, the SEC – both government regulating bodies – both agree.

    Finally, for the more extreme (but still realistic) response, if you really want to do something, you can always provide an alternative yourself (i.e., start or purchase your own company). This may not sound realistic, but it is one of the cornerstones of our free market economy and it happens a thousand times a day.

    Again, the market will balance things out. But remember, you do not have a RIGHT to watch whatever you want. Just like you don’t have a RIGHT to get healthcare anywhere you want (but that’s another debate for another day).

    And in all seriousness, economics is what drives the issue. It always does.

  24. Carpe Forem says:


    There is no free market in communications (or very very little). Remember what happened to the last big challenger to the Ma, baby and cousin bells… Worldcom/MCI. Once they started competing everyone (in the industry … the bells) knew there had to be something illegal going on. In order to have scaled the hurdles of government regulations and licensing requirement, one has to have cheated.
    Regulations and licensing requirements are always sold to the public as for their benefit. When in fact the biggest benefactor are those already in business. Resulting in less competition. The industries where this protectionist behavior is practiced is easily recognizable. It is where the product or service prices never go down. Auto, communications, insurance and real estate sales to name a few. Keep in mind I’m not saying that there is no competition in some of these areas. All I’m saying is that it has been very much limited by government involvement.

  25. GAWire says:

    Carpe, that’s actually a well rounded argument (especially compared to some of the other things I’ve heard today). You make good points. I will concede that there are barriers within this sector specifically, as there are in others that you mentioned. Also, I do not think many of the regulations (from the government side of things) help market efficiency.

    I guess my main argument, which I still believe is looking from a global, 30,000 foot view of the market, if you will. Of course when I say that anyone can go out and start another company if they don’t like at&t, I am speaking from more of a theoretical viewpoint, b/c the reality of that being successful is limited. Still, people have every right to try and they have no right to succeed, nor should the gov’t hold their hand to make sure they can succeed.

    I will say however that I’m not sure the Worldcom example is a good one. MCI/Worldcom made acquisitions and were becoming a powerhouse competing with the big ones. Clearly, though, they were doing it illegally, to the point where the shareholders sued mgmt and/or sold the ownership for whatever little amount the shares were worth. It wasn’t anyone’s fault except those directly involved. It is however a perfect example of the market humbling players when inbalance occurs, inbalance in this case being breaking the rules of the market.

  26. rugby_fan says:

    That’s exactly my point GAWire.

    You were incredulous at Spacey’s frustration over what she felt was censorship (I wonder though, if she would be as critical if the censorship was applied to a political foe) by AT&T and said all she had to do was create her own company or move.

    Neither one is easy, that’s my point. It is stupid to suggest that one can just start their own company, especially one that requires millions to start up.

    Statements like this: “if you don

  27. GAWire says:

    rugby, it is what it is, friend. what right does anyone have to tell at&t what they can and cannot show/cut/edit/censor?

    You actually do have a right, but it isn’t the right to watch whatever you want on the internet when someone else is bringing the coverage to you. Your only rights are to either 1) leave the company as a customer; 2) sell ownership as a shareholder; or, 3) start an alternative.

    I conceded to Spacey’s point of being a shareholder and leaving – that’s her right and she took action. But blogging about how it is unethical or unresponsible for a company to sensor footage of some concert which they have full rights to do is absurd.

    And if you make valid arguments, I won’t belittle you, although I don’t think I’m belittling anyone. For once, I’d love it if voters would quit complaining about EVERYTHING! Why don’t you actually DO something or at least put forth an alternative?

    And again, the idea of going out and starting a new company as an alternative is a cornerstone of our free market economy. It might sound extreme and difficult for little rugby to start a telecom company and granted, it wouldn’t be easy, but you have the right to do it (see the rights I listed above). Just b/c it might be difficult doesn’t mean it ain’t an option! My statement which you think is “stupid” (great argument by the way) may sound a little unrealistic and oversimplified to a young college grad sans applied experience, but the main point I’m trying to get across is that it IS an option, and it is done all the time, everyday, day in/day out.

  28. SpaceyG says:

    Rudgy, you bring up a terrific point! For instance, say Shawn Hannity was broadcasting one of his “Freedom Fests” live over the Internets, as he may well have done before. And AT&T shut him down for all that armchair patriotism he loves to go off about, and how smart and brilliant a leader George Bush is, etc. etc. While quietly cheering inside for a moment, I imagine I’d still shut-up and blog about AT&T trampling all over free speech for that particular audience base. And I image all you good flag wavers here would go freakin’ ape sh*t too. Foam at the mouth. Gnash teeth, rend clothing. The works!

    Excellent arguement point, and if I was a real journalist who got a real paycheck and not just another hack blogger, I’d call up Hannity and ask him if he:
    a.) broadcast his Freedom concerts over the Internet?
    b.) who was the ISP if so?
    c.) did they shut him down when he went all “political?”

    This is a job for someone with some actual resources, but if anyone has a “real” (non-published in other words) number for Mr. Hannity, or his concert production crew, I’d love to ask him a few questions about this very issue.

  29. SpaceyG says:

    Seriously Rudgy, the above job would likely be handled quite well by “Baby Snot” Andy Shay. He even earns a paycheck for mouthing-off, when he’s been a good water boy for Edelstein that is. I suggest turning over the Freedom Fest concert issue to him. But don’t tell him I sent you.

  30. GAWire says:

    Spacey, if at&t decided to ‘censor’ Hannity, they’d be perfectly right to do so. This isn’t a right vs left argument (from my point of view). Assuming its their broadcast, they can essentially do whatever they want with it (within reason, of course). If that means blurping out parts, then so be it.

    That’s more of a ratings discussion too. If the market said that the market doesn’t want to hear Pearl Jam bash W, then wouldn’t shutting him up be the smart thing to do, strategically speaking?

    If the market says they want Hannity to rant, rave, foam, etc (for whatever reason), then shouldn’t they do the thing that brings most value to shareholders and let him go on?

    Remember, it’s economics driving this issue … not your perceived right to watch what you want.

  31. SpaceyG says:

    But GAWire, if that’s your arguement, then you’re missing the point… people LOVE hearing Eddie Vedder rant, spout, foam, etc. about politics. That’s part of the reason they pay all those ridiculous prices to go hear that particular band, same as the folks who pay whopping heaps of their hard-earned money to go hear Hannity rant, spout, foam at the mouth, etc. So censorship, in these cases, DOES come down to “rights” issues and not economics.

    Seriously, there’s a music industry blogger named Bobby Lefsatz who c0uld likely answer a lot of these unknown economics questions you’re presenting:

    And who better to get all in a frenzy about rights, perceived or otherwise, than the audience at a Pearl Jam concert? Economics, freakanomics, yadayadayada…

  32. rugby_fan says:

    You know GAWire, those pesky voters wouldn’t annoy you so much if you and your colleagues actually you know, worked, or, improved Georgia, those sorts of things.

    And I understand how frustrated you must get when they voice their “idiotic” opinions. (Who do they think they are making you, you, of all people, listen to them?).

    Look at one of your first few comments for an example of you belittling a voter. And your condescending tone replete this thread (and many others) is evidence enough of you talking down to “the people”.

  33. GAWire says:

    rugby, I guess you’re right in one respect … I do choose to read PP, so I guess that I bring the idiocy upon myself sometimes.

  34. SpaceyG says:

    You’re very right, GAWire, to point out that a music industry blogger is probably not a great place to go for econ lessons. But the dude does write a very interesting blog that brings into play a lot of very intriquing issues about doing business as a musician in a radidly shifting industry/media environment. He’s worth checking out if you can make it through all the “f” words and longwinded asides about his glory days in hair-rock.

  35. Bill Simon says:


    1) Send me your real name and/or the lobbying firm you represent, and I will consult both the State of Georgia lobbyist registration file, as well as the federal file to see if you are telling the truth.

    2) That point aside, while it may be true that no one has a “right” to use the Internet, the fact is ALSO true that a company (or, a consortium of companies) does not have the right to takeover the Internet and carve-out special access and sell those to one group of people (e.g., the ones who can afford to pay for that) while degrading the service of other users.

    That is why they hate the concept of “Net Neutrality.” They view the Internet as a land yet to be strip-mined of all valuable resources.

    Of course, YOU might think that is perfectly okay…and, of course, you probably agree with China stuffing plastic pellets into dog food and toothpaste to make-up for the lack of volume of quality ingredients.

    After all, it is FREE MARKET CAPITALISM, isn’t it? No one has a “right” to eat prepared food that won’t kill them or make their animals sick, do they? I don’t see that right in the US Constitution anywhere.

    Under your thinking, everyone should be subject to the risks and windfalls of the “free enterprise system” with no controls or boundaries restricting them.

    If you are are not a lobbyist for AT&T, I suggest you go get a job as one for them. You’re callous enough about life that you would gladly work for money to allow one corporation (that once, coincidentally enough, had built-up a similar lock on long-distance phone service) to rape and pillage the Internet in order to maximize their profits in the short run, all the while screwing-up what is a well-run system where everyone contributes to its success.

    Yes, if I were you, Wire, I would continue to operate in anonymity.

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