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16 Jun

FTC Under Pressure To Crack Down On The Privacy Practices Of AT&T® And Comcast®

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Privacy And Data Collection Methods

The Federal Trade Commission is the top privacy regulator of the US and they are now under pressure to crack down on the privacy and data collection methods of AT&T®, Comcast®, and many other internet providers in the light of a recent court ruling, which would offer FTC the power to police all the internet providers.

Many consumer advocate groups are forcing the FTC to reopen a complaint that was filed against Comcast®, AT&T®, and Cablevision®. The complaint was filed against the alleged deceptive practices that were related to the privacy policies of these internet service providers.

As per groups like Consumer Federation of America, Public Knowledge, Center for Digital Democracy, and many others, these cable providers are violating the privacy of users, as they do not adequately notify users on the amount of data that the internet providers are collecting, compiling and using for making targeted marketing campaigns.

“Specifically, the complaint provides evidence that these cable operators failed to adequately disclose (1) the extent to which they were collecting consumer information via their non-common carrier subscription television services; (2) how they shared this information; and (3) how this information was combined with personal information collected through other means, such as information collected via the subscription video provider’s Title II internet offering to create comprehensive profiles on consumers, including data about consumers’ families, personal habits, and other characteristics,” the groups said in a letter sent to acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen.

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Targeted Marketing Campaigns

This complaint was filed before a year, a few months before the FTC lost a lawsuit against AT&T® for deceiving the users of their unlimited data plans. It was reported that the best internet provider was throttling the users once they reach a download threshold. This was questioned by FTC and when they tried to fine AT&T®, they claimed in court that the FTC is no longer capable of regulating AT&T® as they are recently classified as “common carrier.” Common carrier is a public utility designation under FCC offered to all the internet providers in 2015 as part of enforcing the net neutrality rules.

A federal court said that the claims of AT&T® are true and barred the top privacy watchdog of the government from controlling and overseeing the practices of all the businesses that are classified as common carriers including Google®, AOL®, and Yahoo®. All of them collect loads of data on their users, make sophisticated profiles, and monetize the data to have targeted advertising.

14 Jun

Charter Spectrum® Would Serve Broadband In NY Homes As A Part Of Development Project

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Broadband-To-Household State Plan

Charter Spectrum® bagged the rights to serve broadband in 95 percent of NY homes and made a pledge to NY Public Service Commission when Time Warner Cable® and Charter Communications® merged in 2016. However, other broadband vendors are yet to bid for the remaining five percent NY homes. The last phase of the broadband bids has opened on June 6, 2017.

The two NY counties served by Charter Spectrum® include Orleans and Niagara. The $500 million broadband-to-household state plan was laid out to improve the New York infrastructure. As per their pledge, Charter Spectrum® is expected to speed up broadband in 145, 000 NY households in the coming years. The pledge was made to the Public Service Commission stating that the best internet service provider would develop state broadband in four years time. The state legislators, on the other hand, hopes to see each New York household equipped with broadband.

“You get to 95-97 percent; what about the group that’s left?” asked David Godfrey, Niagara County Legislator. It is being said that legislators from both counties fear that 1020 homes in NY may remain broadband-less due to scarcity of local vendors. “There’s got to be vendors to cover it. We’re hoping to get enough vendors,” Godfrey added.

To serve the five percent NY homes, legislators shall give a permit to local wireless vendors and Charter Spectrum® fiber cable broadband lines can be tied with their network to serve the best internet service in NY. The permit, if given, would bring an end to the broadband needs of all the households in New York.

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Fiber Cable Broadband Lines

Another way to bring broadband to NY homes is to include the two counties under Genesee County’s bid request. In fact, the Orleans County Legislator, Lynne Johnson expects bids from broadband vendors in New York only.

“We’re hoping nearby counties will go out for a (bid), and a vendor will say, ‘While we’re in your neck of the woods, why not bring broadband to these residents?’” Johnson said.

Charter Spectrum® is home to one of the largest broadband network in America. The NY broadband bid rules have put vendors having coverage and high-speed broadband at an advantage to win bids. It seems now the destiny of households in Orleans and Niagara are charted for the infrastructural good.

13 Jun

Charter® May Have Over Charged Previous Time Warner Cable® Customers

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Cable And Internet Service

Several previous customers of Time Warner Cable® who are currently under the cable and internet service of Charter Spectrum® recently complained that they are being overcharged by the telecom company. Nick Kocak, a Binghamton resident stated that he was normally paying $125 a month for Charter’s cable television and internet service but he was recently charged $180 for the same. He said, “It shouldn’t have jumped for the same services.”

It seems that the owner of the Spectrum-branded cable services, Charter Communications®, is adjusting bills of former Time Warner Cable® customers to fit their own pricing structures. In a recent announcement, Charter® Chief Executive Thomas Rutledge said, “There were 90,000 separate offers and many of them were deeply discounted and they were piled on top of each other.”

This implies that the promotional pricing offered by the best internet provider, Charter Communications® is applicable for just new subscribers. Reports further indicate that deals and offers for existing subscribers are slowly fading away. Calling the customer service representatives and threatening them that you will unsubscribe might have worked with Time Warner Cable® but it will not be working with Charter’s new service.

Rutledge talked about the pricing policies of Time Warner Cable® and stated, “It was a Turkish bazaar. You’d call in and bargain and you’d get a package.” However, reports from several reliable sources claim that the telecom company is planning further price adjustments for previous customers of TWC®.

Rutledge added that only just 17 percent of the Time Warner Cable® legacy subscriber base is currently on Spectrum® pricing. This means that the remaining 83 percent of customers might be in for a surprise when they receive their next Spectrum® bill.

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Spectrum-Branded Cable Services

Charter Communications® has already paid a hefty price for their strategy shift. The Connecticut-based telecom company has lost approximately 100,000 customers in the first quarter. Most of them were Time Warner Cable® customers who were not happy with the significant increase in cable and internet prices.

As per Jeff Kagan, a telecommunications analyst based in Marietta, said, “In order to continue to grow you have to keep the customer happy.” However, Charter Communications® has still managed to lure in more customers towards their high-speed internet service over the last few months thanks to their cheap internet deals.

13 Jun

Comcast® Hires More Than Hundred Workers For Its New Call Center Facility In North Charleston

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New Call Center Facility

Comcast Corporation®, who is one of the best internet providers in the country, has announced the hiring of more than a hundred workers to operate its new call center in North Charleston. With this move, the telecom and cable company has effectively increased the amount of workforce in Lowcountry.

Comcast’s new call center is an 80,000 square foot facility that will carry out customer service calls and various technical support issues from different parts of the country. The new call center will also prove to be a major source of employment while also enhancing the image of Comcast®.

According to the company officials, the office on Ingleside Boulevard in Lowcountry will accommodate about 550 of the new employees. Moreover, the company also expects to include hotels, homes, and retailers on the University and Weber boulevards with the 2000-acre development.

Comcast® has commenced its operations in the previous year. Alex Horwitz, spokesperson of Comcast® has stated that the company has only filled a part of its employment vacancies so far. In 2015, a $500,000 grant has been provided by the South Carolina Commerce Department for supporting the property developments.

Besides the call center, Comcast® operates a successful workforce for its local television and internet customers subscribing to its cheap internet packages. Among them, the Xfinity® service in South Carolina operates effectively with a couple of its stores centered on the region.

Comcast® intends to bolster its image by setting up the new call center in North Charleston inclusive of training facilities and hardware exhibitions. This new move is attributed to its deteriorating image among the customers, with one consumer affairs website citing it as the “worst company in America.”

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Improving Customer Experience

Mike McArdle, a Comcast® senior vice president who manages the customer service in the region stated, “The most important thing is not only bringing jobs to this community, but it’s a clear sign of one of our core pillars, and that is improving the customer experience. We’re very excited for what we’ll do here.”

The plans for setting up the facility for hiring more than 5500 customer service workers commenced back in 2015. Alongside this, the company has also brought forward increasing presence in various social media for addressing the grievances of the customers. It also included a new smartphone app with tracking features that enable the customers in knowing about the location of the cable technician.

12 Jun

AT&T’s Forced Arbitration Favored By Supreme Court Ruling

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AT&T® Overcharging Customers

AT&T® Internet and DirecTV® has included terms of service that entails customers to “agree to arbitrate all disputes and claims” against the company. In this clause, there are prohibitions on carrying out class actions and jury trials, with an exception for individual cases in smaller courts. AT&T® has also made other clauses that call for multiple customers arbitration claims not to be consolidated into a single case unless the company has put aside the need. In the terms of service of AT&T® Internet, small claims court is described as “the exclusive alternative to arbitration.”

The arbitrator fees will be taken care of by AT&T® in the case when customers bring up claims that involve sums of $25,000 or $75,000 with DirecTV®. Moreover, only a 30-day period is being provided to AT&T® and DirecTV® customers for rejecting any of the potential alterations to the arbitration provision. There is no option for opting out of the arbitration claims. It is reported that a similar method for opting out has been created by Comcast® and numerous other ISP’s.

AT&T® has issued forth a general statement concerning on its usage of arbitration. It states, “We have been widely recognized for having one of the most consumer-friendly arbitration policies in the country—one federal court said our arbitration agreement has ‘perhaps the fairest and consumer-friendly provisions this Court has ever seen. The agreement provides strong incentives for us to resolve disputes prior to arbitration, and we resolve the vast majority before arbitration begins.”

A US District Court ruling, as per a Law360 article, determined that AT&T’s class action ban is unconscionable under the laws of California. It stated, “Despite ruling it unconscionable, Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the US District Court for the Southern of California hailed the contract as having ‘perhaps the fairest and consumer-friendly provisions that court has ever seen.”

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Federal Arbitration Value

However, AT&T® has won the US Supreme Court case ruled in 2011 that the Federal Arbitration Value as “preempts California’s rule classifying most collective-arbitration waivers in consumer contracts as unconscionable.” The telecom company stated that it gives consumers with a premium of $10,000 if the arbitrator presents the consumer with more than what is offered in their final settlement.

AT&T® mostly resolves a large number of claims made by consumers before it is presented for arbitration. It said, “Arbitration is always convenient for the consumer because any hearing takes place in the county where the consumer resides and, for claims under $10,000, the consumer may choose whether the arbitration will be in person, by telephone, or by written submission.”

12 Jun

Senators Claim That AT&T® Used Forced Arbitration For Overcharging Subscribers

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Forced Arbitration Clauses

Reports from several reliable sources indicate that five Democratic US senators claimed that the usage of forced arbitration clauses by the telecom company, AT&T® has allowed them to charge higher prices than the ones they normally advertise to their subscribers. The US senators highlighted a CBS News investigation, which described that “more than 4,000 complaints against AT&T® and [subsidiary] DirecTV® related to deals, promotions and overcharging in the past two years.”

According to Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), most of the AT&T® subscribers have shown little remorse, as they are currently being forced to settle disputes with the telecom giant. The senators wrote a letter to the CEO of AT&T®, Randall Stephenson, in which they said, “Forced arbitration provisions in telecommunications contracts erode Americans’ right for seeking justice in the federal courts by urging the individuals into a privatized system, which is inherently biased in the favor of internet providers like AT&T®.” They also added that the privatized system provides virtually no way for challenging a biased outcome.

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“Forced arbitration requires consumers to sign away their constitutional right to hold providers accountable in court just to access modern-day essentials like mobile phone, Internet, and pay-TV services,” the letter added. The senators also stated that the forced arbitration provisions of the telecom company also “includes a class action waiver; language which strips consumers of the right to band together with other consumers to challenge a provider’s widespread wrongdoing.”

The senators further said that they are “particularly concerned about AT&T’s treatment of customer complaints alleging that the company charged a higher rate for services than initially offered in a deal or promotion.” On the other hand, the officials from AT&T® reacted to the issue by arguing that the arbitration is actually a lot more better for their customers when compared to courts of law.

In reply to that, the senators said, “Only 18 out of AT&T’s nearly 150 million subscribers sought accountability for these or other issues through individual, forced arbitration proceedings.” The senators also asked for information on how many complaints the telecom company has received on breaches of promotions, deals, and offers, in the last two years. However, we still have to wait for AT&T’s detailed take on the issue.

09 Jun

Mad Men Is Coming To AT&T® Audience Network

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Critically Acclaimed TV Series

In a recent announcement, AT&T® Audience Network confirmed that they will be airing all seven series of the critically acclaimed TV series, Mad Men, from June 12, 2017. Featuring Jon Hamm in the main role, the series was originally aired on the AMC Network and it will be now available to viewers on Monday through Friday on Audience Network at 06:00 p.m.

The officials from the network also added that there would be occasional marathons of the TV show on selected Saturdays. AT&T® Audience Network landed the rights to the popular TV show as a part of their latest carriage deals that Starz and Lionsgate signed with DirecTV® and AT&T® last year. In addition to that, the telecom giant took a minor equity stake in Lionsgate at that time.

The AT&T® Audience Network head Chris Long said, “Part of that deal was to get access to some of their library. The value proposition was, ‘Chris, would you like Mad Men to be put in syndication and stripped, and would you like Weeds?’ ‘We said, absolutely.’” Lionsgate is also the producer of Showtime comedy Weeds that began airing on Audience Network last February.

Long added, “Mad Men falls right into NYPD Blue and Sons of Anarchy as another great premium show that I can strip in the daypart and give people an opportunity to catch up on a show they might not have seen.” Reports from reliable sources also claim that the TV show will be airing without any commercials just like the other prime-time programming of Audience Network. The officials from the channel believe that this will give them a clear advantage over their competitors.

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Best TV Shows

Long said, “People don’t like to watch commercials, and soon as you go to commercial, they inherently will switch. We’ve seen unbelievable ratings spikes in our viewership because we’re commercial free.” Even though Audience Network is the first linear network to secure the off-network rights of Mad Men, the show has been available to viewers on Netflix since 2011.

The parent company of Audience Network, AT&T® is one of the leading internet providers in several parts of the region. They have been also offering numerous exciting internet plans to lure in customers towards their offerings. With their cheap internet deals and such popular shows airing on their network, AT&T® is sure to attract more subscribers in the days to come.

09 Jun

AT&T® Engage In Distracted Driving Awareness Program At Park View

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Virtual Reality Simulation

AT&T®, one of the best internet providers of the country, says that technology could offer a solution for adults and teens that are at risk of distracted driving. US Rep. Barbara Comstock recently visited the Park View High School to deliver a lecture at a distracted driving event that was sponsored by AT&T®. In the event, high school students tested a virtual reality simulation on the dangers of distracted driving.

“We know that the 100 days in the summer that they’re about to enter are the most dangerous time for new drivers and for teen drivers, so this is an education effort to make them aware about the dangers of texting and driving,” said Rep. Comstock. “We’ve done some of these programs before, but this is a real life simulator so that they can see the impact which we know is almost akin to drunk driving, or worse.”

High school students took turn to sit in a demo vehicle wearing a VR headset that allowed students to look in all directions to see the various aspects of it. They will be able to see road signs and landmarks flying near the window of the vehicle while the cell phone rings nonstop near the driver seat. When the virtual driver of the vehicle picks up the phone, a safety hazard appears just inches from the vehicle, including stopped vehicles and children crossing.

“I learned that even though sometimes texting and driving can kind of look harmless, at some points, if you’re just taking a glance, it can actually be super dangerous because of how many things can go on in such a little time,” said Tony Lampe, a Park View sophomore who tested the simulation. “I tried to play along by also looking at the screen if the person grabbed their phone, and then I looked up, and boom, a hazard’s right in front of you. And it was really eye-opening.”

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Distracted Driving Awareness Program

AT&T® has been holding similar events right from 2010. They have visited about three hundred venues across the nation but this is the first Loudoun County event by the Telco giant. The main feature of these events, since 2015, has been virtual reality. AT&T® has also offered cardboard headset to the participants in the program so that they can experience the software even at home and share with friends.

“Some way, I’m going to get these things in our classroom,” said Scott Yurish, the driver education teacher and head of the physical education department at Park View. “I’m seeing such positive results with the faces, and with as soon as the kids sit down and open the boxes and start slapping their cell phones in, and downloading the apps.”

07 Jun

Comcast® Signs Employer Support Of The Guard And Reserve (ESGR) Statement Of Support

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ESGR Statement Of Support

Reports from several reliable sources claim that the officials of Comcast Corporation® from the Freedom Region that serves northern Delaware, Greater Philadelphia, New Jersey recently signed the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Statement of Support. The officials from the telecom company also hinted that Comcast® is currently making efforts to support and hire members from the National Guard and Reserve components.

In addition to that, a Military Hiring Fair and networking event was also organized by the telecom company to explore career opportunities at the company for the local Military community members. The NJ facility of the telecom giant, Comcast® Voorhees hosted both the events.

The U.S. Department of Defense program, ESGR promotes and develops supportive work environment for the service members by organizing programs to raise public awareness and to educate employers. The event featured remarks by Brig. Gen. Michael L. Cunniff, New Jersey Adj. Gen. Jim Samaha, Comcast® Freedom Region Senior Vice President, Will Baas, Comcast® Vice President of Talent Acquisition for the Northeast Division, and a few more people.

The Senior Leadership Team members of Comcast Corporation®, New Jersey senior military officers, Comcast® veteran employees, VETNET Employee Resource Group, and Veteran Affairs team were a few among the 100 attendees of the ceremony that featured a presentation of colors by the Sterling High School Color Guard, Jr. ROTC Navy Knights.

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Comcast’s Vice President for Military and Veterans Affairs, Carol Eggert said, “Comcast NBCUniversal has a long tradition of hiring and supporting veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses. Our company founder, Ralph Roberts, was a WWII U.S. Navy veteran, and many of our current executive leaders, including CEO Neil Smit, also served in the military. We are proud to have thousands of members of the Military Community working across the country in all levels of the organization.”

One of the leading internet providers in the country, Comcast Corporation® had earlier announced a commitment for hiring 10,000 reservists, military spouses, and veterans through 2017. Reports indicate that Comcast® might fulfill the commitment very shortly.

Comcast® is the fastest internet provider in several parts of the country. So, if you are planning to get an internet subscription, make sure to compare the internet plans of Comcast® to acquire a better or cheap internet deal.

07 Jun

AT&T® Says That Net Neutrality Does Not Block, Bar, Or Throttle Internet

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Open Internet Regulations

In their attempt to delegitimize the net neutrality rules of the Obama era, AT&T® said that the open internet regulations of the Federal Communications Commission do not block the internet providers from throttling and blocking the web traffic in all situations. AT&T® said that citing a federal court ruling, which upheld these rules.

A three-judge panel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the rule in the court, rejecting a lawsuit that was brought by the various internet service providers. The different broadband providers appealed the case to full circuit judges, but they also upheld the rules and explained reasons.

The Vice President of AT&T® Federal Regulatory, Hank Hultquist highlighted an area of the ruling in one of his blog posts, that seems to outline a situation in which the internet service providers could slowdown, block, or speed up the internet traffic. He said that these are activities that are forbidden in the Open Internet Order of FCC released in 2015.

“According to the concurrence, which was written by Judges Sri Srinivasan and David S. Tatel, the net neutrality rule applies only to ‘those broadband providers who hold themselves out as neutral, indiscriminate conduits’ to any content of a subscriber’s own choosing,” Hultquist wrote.

“The concurrence goes on to say, ‘the rule does not apply to an ISP holding itself out as providing something other than a neutral, indiscriminate pathway – i.e., an ISP making sufficiently clear that it provides a filtered service involving the ISP’s exercise of editorial discretion.’”

Hultquist further said that he was surprised by this argument, as it appears to concede that “[i]n the understanding of the D.C. Circuit panel majority, it seems that the Title II order does not touch such practices as long as an ISP clearly discloses its blocking plans to customers.”

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Title II Of The Communications Act

“[I]n the past, supporters of Title II often alleged that without reclassification, ISPs would be free to block unpopular opinions or viewpoints that they disagreed with,” he added.

AT&T® is one of the cheap internet carriers who support the plan of Trump Administration to reverse the reclassification of the different internet service providers as common carriers, which is a public utility designation that is coded under Title II of the Communications Act. However, Title II does not have to do anything with the throttling or blocking, as the FCC made these rules separately.

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