Bonum Certa Men Certa

Gentle Introduction to AT&T, Patents Deform Lobbyist

Here is a photo that vividly illustrates AT&T's stance on patents. As pointed out yesterday, AT&T seems to be threatening its critics, so maybe it's time to set the record straight and show what AT&T is all about.



Let us have a quick walk through some of AT&T's activities over the past year or so.

“They typically escape unpunished because of their relationships with the government.”To give the gist of it, AT&T censors the Web on behalf of the government [1], throttles or blocks traffic [11, 16], discriminates against Free software [3], slams Google [2], polices the Internet [15], fakes openness [14], attacks net neutrality [6], promotes closed networks [12], locks down closed-source phones, threatens people [8], collaborates with Microsoft on dodgy television technology [4, 5] and with Apple on on controversial [7] bundling [9], which is banned in some countries.

As pointed out yesterday, Comcast, which was funded by Microsoft and has existing deals with Microsoft, is no better. American homes are encouraged to steer away from such abusive companies that break the law in many ways. They typically escape unpunished because of their relationships with the government. The same goes for Microsoft, which is believed to be deep in securities fraud.

Another company which is close to Microsoft is Hewlett-Packard [1, 2, 3]. The Stop Software Patents group has just warned that Hewlett-Packard's former head is now liaising with McCain and advising him on patents, which she's a strong lobbyist for.

But the fact is. A company that wants to invest in patent lawyers can expand the number of patents it holds as it likes. Just reallocate resources to the legal department. And HP under Carly Fiorina did that, increased the number of patents it applied for dramatically. But does it mean more innovation?

[...]

I recently noticed that SUN Microsystems announced to abandon its patent inflation strategy as over-patenting was not worth the investment. It is difficult to assess the strategic value of a mine field and you don't find good data how much profit is generated by patents, which patents generate profit or benefit for the company and which are not worth the investment. In most companies investments in patents follow a rule of thumb. Large holders seek profit with patent portfolios like hunters with a shotgun aim for a flock of birds.


Patent laws are a political thing by their very nature [1, 2], so in order to stop software patents, it is important to know who is who. ___ [1] AT&T admits it censored other bands

It looks like Pearl Jam isn't the only band that has had its politically charged comments bleeped from concerts streamed from AT&T's Blue Room Web site.

[...]

AT&T quickly apologized for the incident and blamed the company that handles the Webcasting for performances on Blue Room.


[2] AT&T slams Google over open-access wireless proposal

AT&T has asked Capitol Hill not to enable an open nationwide wireless spectrum, claiming that Google's lobbying of such a network is a bid by the search giant to obtain broadband airwaves at bargain-basement prices.


[3] AT&T IPTV now coming to your PC

AT&T announced Thursday that its U-verse Internet Protocol television service will now allow subscribers to watch live programming on their PCs.

[...]

Access to the new OnTheGo service is limited to computers running the Windows XP operating system with Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox browser.


[4] AT&T Resumes Rollout for Cable TV

But because the software, provided largely by Microsoft Corp., has never been deployed on such a large scale, assorted glitches have forced AT&T to repeatedly delay and scale back the service rollout even though the required network upgrade remains on pace.


[5] Microsoft blamed for AT&T TV hiccups

Microsoft has a spotty history on the gogglebox. In 1997 it spent about $425m to purchase WebTV Networks but failed to make the much-hyped phenomenon a success.


[6] How AT&T chewed up, and spat out Net Neutrality

In an interview with Business Week in October 2005, Whitacre said he thought taking over BellSouth would be rejected by the FCC. He also made another memorable comment that began the process which culminated in the FCC's approval in December.


[7] Customers can sue AT&T, after all

A federal court in San Francisco has decided that AT&T's wireless contract is "unconscionable".


[8] IPhone Unlock Delayed After AT&T's 'Friendly Advice

Fear of litigation has led to an indefinite delay in the planned Saturday release of software to unlock Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

John McLaughlin, founder of Uniquephones, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said Saturday that he received a phone call about 3 a.m. Saturday local time from a man claiming to be from O'Melveny & Myers LLP, an international law firm, calling on behalf of AT&T. The firm has worked with Apple in the past.

The man informed McLaughlin that if he posted the unlock code, he could be sued for copyright infringement and for dissemination of Apple's intellectual property (IP).


[9] iPhone Freed From AT&T, Twice

The company will be selling licenses to the hack, minimum quantity 500, at a price not yet announced. These hacks are much bigger news for those outside America. Expect to see an industry spring up to meet European (and Asian?) demand for freed iPhones.


[10] AT&T Welcomes Programmers for All Phones Except the iPhone

I’m still trying to understand why Apple would go to such extremes to keep people from writing programs that run on the iPhone.


[11] AT&T takes another step towards filtered network with investment in Vobile

AT&T announced earlier this year that was planning to introduce content filtering of some sort for all video passing across its network. Exactly what AT&T was thinking remained unclear: would the company truly attempt to reassemble the fragments of peer-to-peer transmissions, then extract video from all sorts of different codecs, then attempt to match it-in real time-to some database of copyrighted works? Would such a thing even be possible?


[12] Hey, AT&T, What's the Value of a Closed Network Again?

Closed networks, its proponents maintain, offer a trade-off. Individuals or outside developers can't make any changes or improvements to it. But since the network and its applications are controlled at a single source, individuals are supposed to get an easier experince in which they don't have to think about the network, just what they're doing on it. Trust the network.


[13] When Networks Collide: AT&T suddenly doesn't like Apple so much.

What I believe is troubling the relationship between AT&T and Apple is the upcoming auction for 700-MHz wireless spectrum and AT&T's discovery that -- as I have predicted for weeks -- Apple will be joining Google in bidding. AT&T thought its five-year "exclusive" iPhone agreement with Apple would have precluded such a bid, but that just shows how poorly Randall Stephenson understood Steve Jobs. Steve always hurts his friends to see how much they really love him, so AT&T probably should have expected this kind of corporate body blow.


[14] How to Jump on the Open Access Bandwagon By Doing Absolutely Nothing

Earlier this morning, the interweb was aflutter with various reports that AT&T had, in the words of a USA Today article, "flung open its network" to any and all devices. Problem was, this revelation was based solely on the aforementioned article, and the assumption many had (and still seem to have) was that AT&T had in fact changed its network policy in some way. As many have noticed, nothing in fact has changed, other than the fact that AT&T got a healthy dose of positive press out of the misrepresentation.


[15] Should AT&T police the Internet?

A decade after the government said that AT&T and other service providers don't have to police their networks for pirated content, the telecommunications giant is voluntarily looking for ways to play traffic cop.


[16] AT&T and Other I.S.P.'s May Be Getting Ready to Filter

For the last 15 years, Internet service providers have acted - to use an old cliche - as wide-open information super-highways, letting data flow uninterrupted and unimpeded between users and the Internet.

But I.S.P.'s may be about to embrace a new metaphor: traffic cop.

At a small panel discussion about digital piracy at NBC's booth on the Consumer Electronics Show floor, representatives from NBC, Microsoft, several digital filtering companies and the telecom giant AT&T said discussed whether the time was right to start filtering for copyrighted content at the network level.

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