Home » AT&T » Recent Articles:

Californians Complained More About Telecom Companies Than Wildfire Outages Caused by PG&E

More Californians are complaining to state officials about their cable television, internet, and phone service than the energy utilities implicated in causing deadly wildfires that left customers without power for days or weeks.

California’s Office of Senate Floor Analyses prepared a report for elected officials contemplating extending deregulation of the state’s top telecommunications companies. It found deregulation has not always benefited California consumers, noting that several companies have been fined for allowing traditional phone service to fall below required service quality standards. As service deteriorates, lawmakers have tied the hands of state officials trying to enforce what service standards still exist. The report found that the telecom industry has been especially good at covering itself through lobbying and litigation to isolate and disempower consumers seeking redress.

“Many companies, including telecommunications providers, include arbitration clauses in their contracts that limit a consumer’s ability to form a class with other consumers to seek remedies for unfair business practices related to contracts,” the report notes. “These clauses frequently limit consumers to a specified arbitration process that limits the types of remedies consumers can obtain for unfair business practices.”

Customers with unreliable phone service pursuing complaints on the federal level with the Federal Communications Commission have also been dealt a blow by the Trump Administration and its Republican majority control of the FCC.

“It is unclear what kind of remedies consumers can obtain since the FCC has adopted an order limiting its own ability to establish requirements for these services,” the report found.

Deregulation has not stopped Californians from trying to get help from the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), however. The CPUC’s Customer Affairs Branch recorded 1,087 complaints about the state’s phone and cable companies in January 2019, compared with 677 complaints against the state’s energy utilities and 53 lodged against water utilities.

The CPUC’s Customer Affairs Branch reported communications-related complaints were significantly higher than other utilities. (Image: California Office of Senate Floor Analyses)

“Despite the occurrence of wildfires in which utility infrastructure was implicated, complaints regarding energy utilities remained largely consistent between November 2018 and January 2019,” the report found. “The data indicates that the communications sector generates a greater number of complaints to the CPUC than other utility sectors on average, and a much greater percentage of those complaints are for customer issues over which the CPUC has no regulatory jurisdiction.”

Earlier this year, California’s largest investor-owned utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), filed for bankruptcy protection after estimating it was liable for more than $30 billion in damages from recent wildfires. An investigation found equipment owned by PG&E was responsible for starting the worst wildfire in California history. The November 2018 Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise. Yet the Customer Affairs Branch received fewer complaints about PG&E than it received regarding AT&T, Charter Spectrum, Frontier, Cox, and Comcast XFINITY.

Unintended consequences of deregulation have also caused several high profile scandals among telecom companies in the state. Some of the worst offenses were committed by cable and phone companies that further traumatized victims of catastrophic wildfires. An effort to implement new consumer protections for fire victims forced to relocate met fierce resistance from cable and telephone industry lobbyists. Some of those same telecom companies continued to bill wildfire victims for months for service at addresses that no longer existed. AT&T even billed customers that died in the fires.

A recent San Francisco Superior Court decision (Gruber v. Yelp) also found another consequence of deregulation. A judge ruled The California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) does not apply to calls made or received on “digital” phone lines better known as Voice over IP (VoIP). The judge found that since the CPUC does not regulate VoIP calls, and such calls are not legally defined as a traditional phone call, CIPA cannot apply.

More than six months after devastating wildfires swept across the North Bay in 2017, AT&T was still billing customers that died in that fire. KGO-TV reports. (3:31)

After promising to never again erroneously bill wildfire victims, AT&T did it again to those traumatized by the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people and wiped the town of Paradise off the map. KOVR in Sacramento reports on one family pleading with AT&T to stop billing them for landline service at an address that no longer exists. (2:15)

AT&T Customers Brace for Big Disney Blackout — ABC Stations, ESPN, Disney Channel All At Risk

Phillip Dampier September 10, 2019 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV Now, Online Video 2 Comments

The Walt Disney Co., is warning AT&T U-verse, TV Now, and DirecTV customers that a blackout of Disney-owned ABC stations, ESPN, Freeform, and the Disney Channel is imminent because AT&T has not yet agreed on renewal terms.

If an agreement is not signed before the end of the month, AT&T video customers across the country are looking at a third major programming blackout this year.

“The Disney owned networks and stations have agreements in place with all of the major video providers in DirecTV and AT&T video territories, including Comcast, Verizon FiOS, Cox, Optimum, Frontier and others, and we have a strong track record of successfully reaching multi-year agreements with these and other TV providers,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, so far AT&T has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us, despite the fact that the terms we are seeking are in line with recent marketplace deals we have reached with other distributors.”

The last contract renewal DirecTV signed with Disney was in late 2014. It is likely AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV allowed the company to combine its U-verse and streaming agreements with the much larger contract with the satellite TV company, with AT&T’s combined carriage agreement likely to expire on Sept. 30, 2019.

AT&T has spent much of 2019 playing hardball with programmers, willing to let their contracts expire and blackout affected stations and networks. Earlier this year, customers lost access to local TV stations owned by CBS, Nexstar, and a handful of local stations under contract with Sinclair Broadcasting. Customers also lost access to the Altitude Sports and Entertainment Network, a regional sports channel, at the end of August. In some cases, it took several weeks to reach a negotiated settlement with local station owners.

It seems likely Walt Disney will find a similar level of intransigence with AT&T’s negotiating team. AT&T is already preparing its customers for a potential protracted fight and blackout.

“We’re disappointed to see The Walt Disney Co. put their viewers into the middle of negotiations. We are on the side of consumer choice and value and want to keep Disney channels and owned-and-operated local ABC stations in eight cities in our customers’ lineups,” AT&T said in a statement. “We hope to avoid any interruption to the services some of our customers care about. Our goal is always to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. We’ll continue to fight for that here and appreciate their patience while we work this matter out.”

Any blackout would impact Disney-owned and operated ABC affiliates, including:

  • WABC-TV 7 New York
  • KABC-TV 7 Los Angeles
  • WTVD-TV 11 Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
  • KGO-TV 7 San Francisco
  • KTRK-TV 13 Houston
  • KFSN-TV 30 Fresno, Calif.
  • WLS-TV 7 Chicago
  • WPVI-TV 6 Philadelphia

AT&T Workers on Strike in 9 Southeastern States; Expect “Week-Long” Delays for Repairs, New Installs

Phillip Dampier August 27, 2019 AT&T, Consumer News, Video No Comments

More than 20,000 AT&T workers are on strike in nine southeastern states. (Image: CWA Local 3)

AT&T customers in nine southeastern states can expect long delays getting new service installed and existing service repaired as a result of a strike by AT&T workers that began last weekend.

More than 20,000 AT&T technicians and customer service personnel that belong to the Communications Workers of America walked off the job on Saturday citing unfair working conditions including reduced paid sick time, increased responsibilities for overworked technicians, a mandatory requirement that employees be ready to report to work anytime day or night, and other work and benefit changes.

CWA officials claim their last official pre-strike talks with company officials were held August 20. A decision to strike was taken after AT&T sent corporate labor relations experts to the bargaining table with no authority to make contract decisions, which the union called “disrespectful.”

“It turns out that for over three months, we have been bargaining with people who do not have the real authority to make proposals or to reach an agreement with us,” officials at CWA Local 3 complained. “AT&T has also changed to rules of the game by changing our agreement about how we meet and bargain. As a result, CWA was forced to file unfair labor practice charges against AT&T for bargaining in bad faith.”

The strike affects AT&T residential and business customers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Customers started noticing the impact of the strike almost immediately.

“My son started UAB today, and my daughter is starting school tomorrow,” said AT&T customer Cynthia Young in Clay, a suburb of Birmingham, Ala., who lost service a few days ago. “Everything they do nowadays is on Google Classroom or some other platform on the internet.”

Young told WBRC-TV that an AT&T technician did not appear for a scheduled repair call, and the company is now giving her and other customers “the runaround.”

“No one called. We had a scheduled appointment. I understand things are going on but someone could have called, or, I could have gotten a text message saying, ‘due to unforeseen circumstances we could not keep your appointment. We will be in contact with you to reschedule’. You know, something that’s just good business,” complained Young.

Another Birmingham customer was told repair appointments now take more than a week, and her last appointment resulted in a no-show by AT&T technicians.

AT&T claimed it was surprised by CWA’s decision to strike, which the company says came without warning.

“We’re surprised and disappointed that union leaders would call for a strike at this point in the negotiations, particularly when we’re offering terms that would help our employees,” AT&T said in a statement. “We remain ready to sit down with union leaders to negotiate a new, improved contract for our employees. We listen, engage in substantive discussions and share proposals back and forth until we reach agreement. We are prepared for a strike and in the event of a work stoppage, we will continue working hard to serve our customers.”

The workers four-year contract with AT&T expired on Aug. 3, but both sides agreed to continue talks to find a compromise. The decision to strike came after union officials learned they were negotiating with company representatives that had no authority to negotiate. CWA said further talks were pointless until AT&T sent negotiators that can sign a new agreement.

AT&T employees in the affected region tell Stop the Cap! that service calls are being managed by some managers and supervisors until out of area contractors and employees can be brought in. Only high priority outages and urgent maintenance work is being completed. Routine service calls and new installations are being scheduled more than a week out or postponed altogether. If the strike lingers into several weeks, customers should be prepared for no-show service calls and additional delays.

WAGA in Atlanta interviews a CWA representative about what AT&T is offering vs. what they are distorting in their PR campaign. (2:18)

WXIA in Atlanta visits an AT&T picket line and explains what the strike is all about. (2:08)

WBRC in Birmingham, Ala. reports some AT&T customers are finding long delays getting service installed or repaired. (2:04)

AT&T TV Launches In 10 Cities; New Streaming Service Resembles DirecTV

Phillip Dampier August 19, 2019 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, Data Caps, Online Video 1 Comment

AT&T TV launched today in 10 U.S. cities — all within AT&T’s U-verse/fiber service areas, providing a comparable TV lineup to the DirecTV satellite service with discounts for bundling internet access.

Customers can begin signing up today for the service in Orange and Riverside, Calif., West Palm Peach, Fla., Topeka and Wichita, Kan., Springfield and St. Louis, Mo., and Corpus Christi, El Paso, and Odessa, Tex.

The service’s television lineup is closely comparable to the DirecTV satellite lineup, and AT&T intends its new streaming TV service to offer an alternative to those who do not want to install a satellite dish or deal with AT&T’s own U-verse TV. The biggest bundle discounts go to consumers who bundle internet and television service together. Video packages start at $59.99 and include a much larger lineup than AT&T’s streaming-only service targeting cord cutters — AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now).

These plans bundle television and internet from AT&T.

Customers bundling internet and TV service will find a deeply discounted 300 Mbps internet plan for $40 a month for the first year ($70 for gigabit service) and AT&T will include unlimited internet in any package bundling TV service (a $30/mo value). Installation fees are waived, but there is a $19.95 activation fee and an early termination fee of $15/mo for TV and $15/mo for internet for each month remaining on a two-year contract. AT&T TV requires a set-top box for each television and the first one is free. Each additional box is $120, payable up front or in 12 equal monthly installments of $10. The box is powered by Android TV and supports various apps and comes with a voice remote control.

Features include a 500-hour cloud DVR package, with recordings stored up to 90 days. You can record as many channels as you want at the same time, but we suspect premium movie channels may be excluded. The full lineup is available for streaming outside of your home and includes local major network affiliates in most markets. AT&T TV supports 4K streaming as well, and since AT&T is waiving its data cap for TV and broadband customers, you will not have to worry about any data caps. Up to three people can stream your TV lineup simultaneously. Keep in mind each television represents one stream.

AT&T makes life complicated for would-be customers with a panoply of confusing discounts, rebates, and savings that often expire after one year into a two-year contract. Customers should pay careful attention to the breakdown of the charges AT&T provides and mark your calendar so you are not surprised by the gradually rising bill.

Stop the Cap! put together a package to give you an idea of what to expect. We selected the “Ultimate” TV package, which includes just about every English language channel on the lineup. Mysteriously, the biggest exception is Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. Like AT&T TV Now, this channel is only available on the cheapest package, which makes no sense to us.

Let’s start with the TV package:

Note that the TV package is discounted significantly, but only for the first 12 months of your 24 month commitment. Also note the “Regional Sports Fee” which varies depending on the city. In this case, we chose Topeka, Kan. to build this package.

Premium movie channels are provided free for the first 90 days. The prices shown represent à la carte pricing. If you want these channels going forward, ask if a package price is available and bundle them for additional savings.

AT&T’s mini set-top box has been tested by DirecTV Now customers for almost a year. It earned mixed reviews and can be cumbersome. Keep in mind the first box is free, but each additional box costs $120, payable up front or in installments.

AT&T’s pricing for the first three months is very low, then higher prices kick in for the next 12 months unless you cancel those four premium movie channels, with still higher pricing during the second year of the two-year contract. AT&T makes things needlessly complicated and this explains the subscriber confusion about billing issues that is common with AT&T. But AT&T cannot be accused of not letting you know what to expect. In 2020, you could be paying $188.37 just for your TV lineup:

Next up is the internet portion of our order:

Note you get a $20 discount, but only during the first year. The fact you seem to owe nothing when placing the order does not mean the first month is free. AT&T is not sure what they will charge you because: “The monthly total on your bill may vary depending on your billing date and prorated monthly fees, based on the date of installation, that are applied to your account. Quoted prices don’t include taxes, fees, surcharges, shipping, or other charges including city video cost-recovery and Universal Services Fund fees, where applicable.” AT&T wouldn’t tell us exactly what those charges were.

Finally, AT&T includes some additional savings from various promotions, including an odd double gift card promotion awarding a total of $100 in Visa gift cards for signing up online:

The gift card promotion ends September 15, 2019 but will likely reappear. Customers have to submit their rebate request soon after service is ordered and spend the gift card(s) within six months to avoid forfeiture.

AT&T plans to roll out AT&T TV nationwide during 2020. But the company seems to be favoring markets where it already offers broadband service. It is not known if or when AT&T will introduce this streaming alternative to DirecTV in areas where other phone companies dominate. Customers do not have to use AT&T for internet access to subscribe.

CBS and AT&T Reach Carriage Agreement, CBS Sports Net and Smithsonian Channel Part of Deal

Phillip Dampier August 8, 2019 AT&T, Consumer News, DirecTV, DirecTV Now, Online Video No Comments

CBS and AT&T have agreed to end the blackout of 26 CBS owned and operated TV stations in 17 markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. CBS local stations in these areas will return to AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, and DirecTV Now lineups sometime today.

The renewed retransmission consent contract covers carriage of these stations and CBS-owned CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel for the next several years and could broaden carriage of the two CBS cable networks to additional AT&T platforms in the coming months.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but analysts suggest AT&T is now paying several dollars a month per subscriber for each over the air station. AT&T had earlier claimed CBS was being unreasonable in requesting a substantial hike in rates to continue carrying stations that viewers can get over the air for free.

AT&T is still engaged in weeks-long disputes with several Nexstar and Sinclair-managed local station, resulting in ongoing station blackouts in markets around the country.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Stacy Wagner: You can add cinemax to your Hulu subscription for $10 which is $2 cheaper than xfinitys add on rate and even if it cost more I would pay it just as a ...
  • Stacy Wagner: This is absolute nonsense. Things like this make it worth the time and effort to figure out which streaming sites I'll need in order to finally cancel...
  • Debbie Lippitt: To bad about Verison as I have lived 2 places now where Verison is the only one that can get you service. All the others fail. I have also been liter...
  • Andy: Well that's cause you're in New York State. Those much higher than average taxes you New Yorkers pay is being used to fund high dollar legal suits aga...
  • Paul Houle: Elliot Management recently wrote an Urkase against the management of AT&T and I don't blame them. AT&T prices DirectTV as if it was a premium...
  • Dyl: (Small type) You must lease their new xFi gateways to receive a Flex box....
  • Roy: As of September 2019, my legacy EDLP in NYC is still $14.99 (no fees no taxes, my own modem/router). This is even after an in-home service call last m...
  • LG: 300Mbps with no bandwidth cap for $50 / month? I'll believe that when I see it. Likely $50 only if you have some grotesque TV package....
  • Phillip Dampier: The problem with all of these kinds of schemes is that they usually irritate legal subscribers, while pirates and password sharing alternatives flouri...
  • Doug: I would imagine they'd tie a MAC Address to a username/password, for starters. They'd also only allow a fixed amount of MAC addresses to be tied to a...
  • Josh: Yikes. All of those “strategies” sound like they would interfere with legitimate users all the time. Only watch stuff at home?!? Gigantic numbers of...
  • Michaela Houston: The CW station JUST NOW got a station black out around 2pm Central time when Judge Mathis JUST started. Now it's taking up "People's Court " time slot...

Your Account: