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AT&T Changes its 'Terms of Service'

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[qi:024] [Update: AT&T Statement Text] Remember the brouhaha about AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) and the awkward language in their user agreements that prevented people from among other things criticize them. (As Bill Maher says, I kid the phone companies.) AT&T, seems to have taken the feedback from blogs and is changing the language of its terms of service. An AT&T spokesperson emailed us with the following statement.

We are revising the terms of service to clarify our intent. The language in question will be revised to reflect AT&T’s respect for our customers’ right to express opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. And we will make clear that we do not terminate service because a customer expresses their opinion about AT&T.


“AT&T will clarify the language in its Internet Terms of Service agreements to reiterate the company’s commitment to freedom of speech and open dialogue…whether that be via the Internet or elsewhere on the AT&T network.

AT&T’s Terms of Service follow the company’s longstanding respect for our customers’ freedom of speech, and clarifies that we will not terminate or suspend a customers’ Internet access service based upon their political views or criticism of AT&T.  Our Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy are designed to protect our customers, the public, and our network and the facilities used to provide service.  As a responsible corporate citizen, we will review any complaints surrounding material that’s in violation of the law, compromises our network, or is abusive or otherwise threatening to the safety of any individual or group.

Specifically, the adjusted language will read:

5.1 Suspension/Termination.  AT&T respects freedom of expression and believes it is a foundation of our free society to express differing points of view. AT&T will not terminate, disconnect or suspend service because of the views you or we express on public policy matters, political issues or political campaigns. However, 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 (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; or (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines. Your Service may be suspended or terminated if your payment is past due and such condition continues un-remedied for thirty (30) days. Termination or suspension by AT&T of Service also constitutes termination or suspension (as applicable) of your license to use any Software. AT&T may also terminate or suspend your Service if you provide false or inaccurate information that is required for the provision of Service or is necessary to allow AT&T to bill you for Service.

We feel that the clarifying language better reflects our actual long-held policy, which respects AT&T’s customers’ rights to freely voice their opinions and concerns.

In addition, we are in the process of reviewing our entire Terms of Service to ensure it reflects AT&T’s ongoing and unblemished commitment to freedom of expression as outlined in the language above.

Our customers are our highest priority and we regret any confusion this may have caused.”

9 Responses to “AT&T Changes its 'Terms of Service'”

  1. Cory,

    While the actual change hasn’t happened, that they are listening to the bloggers is big news. of course, if they don’t change the language we are going to be proactive about that, and start putting pressure on them.

    it is a twin edged sword and they know the risks of saying something and not following up. i pretty much let the spokesperson know that.

  2. Now this is excellent news. Even a leviathan-level corporation like AT&T is vulnerable to the court of public opinion, and they must be realizing how much more scrutiny is leveled at the business practices of telecoms thanks to the proliferation of tech-savvy readers on the ‘Net.

    Of course, nothing’s stopping them from canceling customers’ service anyway, TOS be damned. So it’s important to stay vigilant.

  3. This is the same PR guy who got everyone to write stories LAST week about how “AT&T’s ToS don’t mean they’ll cut you off for criticizing them” when in fact, that’s EXACTLY what they said.

    Now he’s reaching out to bloggers to try to get us to say, essentially, AT&T has changed its ToS, when they have done nothing of the sort. As far as I can tell, AT&T’s action on this to date has consisted of telling a PR person to tell bloggers that at some nonspecified point in the future they will revise the language to say something else, but no one knows what. This is a far, far cry from “AT&T changes its terms of service.”

    That’s what I told the same PR guy when he emailed me.