Wednesday, May 09, 2018

AT&T Came Banging on My Front Door

Bang, bang, bang! Who's there? It's AT&T!

The two young salesmen at the door were desperate to sell me on getting DirecTV. They came with iPad in hand asking me for all my numbers, Social Security number too. Hope this isn't a scam. If it's a scam, it's an unusually well-done scam. Now, I used to have DirecTV, but abandoned it at least four years ago due to the cost, plus all the absurd bullshit that passes for news these days.

The reason the salesmen gave for this visit was as a customer-retention effort, given neighborhood Internet interruptions due to construction and with new, faster, fiber-optic cable now being available. Hmm.... Maybe plausible. I certainly have had lots of Internet interruptions on AT&T. I don't know about construction going on, but Xfinity and Comcast have been trying to grab my attention, with flyers in the mail, and especially when their technical people block my driveway with big trucks and are up on my utility pole after sunset. Customer-retention makes some sense, given the competition.

Still, what caught my attention was being to get DirecTV and Internet for about the same cost as getting Internet alone. I hate TV, but what's not to love about getting free TV? Plus being able to watch TV on the iPhone?

So, why are they giving me free TV?

There may be a tie-in with what's happening elsewhere:
The body isn’t even cold yet, but AT&T is wasting no time in rolling out new “features” that fly in the face of net neutrality. The company has expanded its “sponsored data” program to prepaid wireless customers, offering content companies the option to “sponsor” their data so that it doesn’t count against users’ caps.

This, in case you’re wondering, is what you find under the definition of “paid fast lanes” in the net neutrality false promises hall of fame.

As of right now, the only three services using AT&T’s sponsored data program are DirecTV, UVerse, and Fullscreen. By a huge coincidence, those are three video services owned by AT&T. “Now your plan includes sponsored data. This means, for example, that customers who have DirecTV or U-verse TV can now stream movies and shows … without it counting against their plan data,” AT&T told customers in a text message earlier today.

This flies directly in the face of a statement AT&T made just last year, when it was trying to persuade consumers that the FCC’s net neutrality repeal wouldn’t be the end of a free and open internet. “AT&T intends to operate its network the same way AT&T operates its network today: in an open and transparent manner. We will not block websites, we will not throttle or degrade internet traffic based on content, and we will not unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic,” executive Bob Quinn said at the time.

By any definition, offering paid fast lanes to companies constitutes “discriminating” against internet traffic. I’d say that only prioritizing traffic from AT&T-owned companies, or companies willing to pay up, constitutes unfair discrimination, but then again I’m not an AT&T lawyer.

The salesmen and I didn't talk about net neutrality. Instead, my effort to sign up was bollixed by an iPad upgrade not installed, and didn't succeed until the third time. Since they were on my doorstep for a long time, we started talking. They saw my "Breaking Bad" T-Shirt and talked about being fans of the TV show. I started expostulating on my theories regarding sets and filming locations. So, I went to go find a copy of my book. I couldn't find any except old copies, so I gave the old copies to them as gifts. They were pleased, and it made the tedium of waiting easier to endure.

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