Posts Tagged ‘AT&T’

Big telecom pushes de-regulation bill in California

Posted on: September 10th, 2012 by Siddhartha Mahanta 1 Comment

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California could be the latest state to enact a law that dramatically curbs regulatory oversight of telecommunications services in the state, handing a significant victory to the industry players that have lobbied for the bill’s passage. (more…)

Corporate and national security interests align in battle over CISPA

Posted on: April 23rd, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 3 Comments

Photo: Flickr/University of Exeter

After privacy activists and internet companies joined forces to derail the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), they are now on opposing sides in a fight over another piece of legislation seeking to regulate the internet. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was introduced into the House of Representatives as HR 3523, and has 112 cosponsors. The legislation is scheduled to be voted on by the House on Wednesday. While lawmakers and corporate interests supporting the bill say it is necessary to help prevent cyber attacks, opponents claim that it is a federal overreach on par with SOPA.

Introduced by Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, CISPA was referred to the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was voted out of committee in December. The committee released a statement pointing to a number of reasons it believes the bill should be supported. The claims include that it helps businesses defend themselves from attacks, it keeps the federal government’s hands off the internet, protects Americans’ privacy, does not impose new federal regulations or mandates, and was written in the open in a bipartisan way.

If enacted it would allow the United States government and private companies to communicate about cyber security threats and share information. Opponents point to a clause in the bill stating that the information will be shared “notwithstanding any law,” which means that CISPA trumps any federal or state privacy law that currently prohibits disclosure of private information. In addition there are no limitations on what the information can be used for or how long it can be stored. The legislation also lacks transparency, as the sharing authorized by CISPA is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Unlike SOPA, internet and technology companies have been very supportive of the proposed law. Companies including AT&T, IBM and Verizon are supporting the legislation, and those and 25 other companies have written letters to Congress in support of CISPA. Tim McKone, AT&T executive vice president, wrote that AT&T supports CISPA “as an important and positive step in strengthening cybersecurity collaboration. The sharing of cyber threat and attack information is an essential component of an effective cyber-defense strategy, and the legislation helps to provide greater clarity for private sector entities.”

Some of the same companies that led the fight against SOPA and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are supporting CISPA. Joel Kaplan, the Vice President of U.S. public policy at Facebook, wrote that CISPA “removes burdensome rules that currently can inhibit protection of the cyber ecosystem, and helps provide a more established structure for sharing within the cyber community while still respecting privacy rights.” Behind the scenes, Google helped craft the legislation. Rep. Rogers told the Hill that Google has “been helpful and supportive of trying to find the right language in the bill.”

Digital Trends has compiled a list of more than 800 companies and organizations that have provided either direct or indirect support for CISPA. In addition to internet and telecom companies, supporters include technology giants such as Microsoft and powerful defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin. Hundreds of companies are represented by powerful trade groups that support CISPA including the the Business Roundtable, Information Technology Industry Council, and National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The Business Roundtable, which includes Bank of America, ExxonMobil, and General Electric as members, spends millions lobbying congress every year. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2011 the group spent $12.2 million lobbying on a range of issues from taxes to immigration. Among the legislation that the Business Roundtable has lobbied on is CISPA. Only Cisco Systems (also a member of the Business Roundtable) and National Cable & Telecommunications Association have lobbied as much the Business Roundtable for CISPA.

It is not just corporate interests that have been lobbying for CISPA. The National Security Agency (NSA) has been pushing to expand its role in preventing cyber attacks to the private sector. NSA officials have argued for expanded legal authority for the agency, and the ability to monitor the internet traffic of companies involved in critical infrastructure systems designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While the NSA has issued reassurances that private information will not be monitored, the Obama Administration has blocked attempts by the agency to expand its role.

A grassroots coalition of civil liberties organizations and online activists have organized in opposition of CISPA, but without online giants such as Facebook and Wikipedia they have been unable to generate much public outcry. Organizations such as Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), the Sunlight Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have been mobilizing online activists through social media, and encouraging people to contact their representatives in congress to urge them to vote against the bill.

The co-sponsors of CISPA include seven lawmakers from the Texas congressional delegation. Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. John Carter, Rep. Michael Conaway, Rep. Henry Cuellar, Rep. Ralph Hall, Rep. Michael McCaul, and Rep. Pete Olson are all co-sponsors. One notable congressman is not among the list of cosponsors. Rep. Lamar Smith who was the architect and primary supporter of SOPA, has not signed on to cosponsor CISPA. As the Texas Independent reported, because of SOPA, Smith was targeted by online grassroots activists for defeat in the Texas Republican primary.

According to information compiled by MapLight, campaign contributions from interest groups supporting CISPA are twelve times the amount of contributions from groups opposed. During the 2012 election cycle $31.5 million has been contributed by supporters compared to the $2.5 million from opponents. Burgess received $84,750 in campaign contributions from supporters of CISPA. Carter received $120,000, Conaway received $68,250, Cuellar received $51,400, Hall received $79,434, McCaul received $159,044, and Olson received $72,300 all from supporters of CISPA.

Top stories photo credit: Flickr/photosteve101

Texas congressmen, recipients of AT&T cash, dial in support for T-Mobile merger

Posted on: October 10th, 2011 by Mary Tuma 1 Comment

Image by Matt MahurinA Texas congressman is behind a letter sent to President Barack Obama last month disagreeing with the U.S. Department of Justice’s choice to block the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, a deal that would give the nation’s largest wireless carrier an even greater share of the market. (more…)

Perry-backed telecom merger blocked by DOJ for being anti-competitive

Posted on: September 1st, 2011 by Mary Tuma 1 Comment

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice moved to block the proposed $39 billion takeover of mobile carrier T-Mobile by telecom giant AT&T, arguing the merger would violate anti-trust laws and would diminish price, quality, and innovation, Bloomberg News reported. (more…)

AT&T/T-Mobile merger has Perry’s support, but could cost South Texas call center jobs

Posted on: August 18th, 2011 by Mary Tuma No Comments

As Gov. Rick Perry makes tours the country promoting Texas as the country’s hub for job growth, minority communities in the state with already high unemployment rates are slated to lose even more jobs if a major telecomm merger championed by Perry goes through, reports The Huffington Post. (more…)

Flush with telecom cash, Texas Congressmen push for AT&T, T-mobile merger

Posted on: August 5th, 2011 by Mary Tuma No Comments

A telecommunications industry merger that critics say will hurt the public interest and inhibit competition is being backed by some Texas congressmen whose campaign coffers are lined with thousands of dollars from the telecom companies that will benefit from the deal. (more…)

Private interests fund inaugurations in Florida, Michigan, Texas

Posted on: January 18th, 2011 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst aren’t the only state leaders in the U.S. to have private donors and corporate interests pick up the tab for their inauguration ceremony.

The Dallas Morning News‘ Wayne Slater reports that “Oil executives, beer distributors, lobbyists and big-dollar campaign donors — many with interests before the state — are providing the nearly $2 million for the swearing-in. In exchange, they are offered various levels of access” to Perry and Dewhurst.

Similarly, moneyed interests and groups are footing the bills for gubernatorial pomp in Florida and Michigan, as has been reported in the Texas Independent’s sister publications the Florida Independent and Michigan Messenger.

While Perry and Dewhurst are longtime incumbents, voters in Florida and Michigan elected new leaders Gov. Rick Scott and Gov. Rick Snyder, respectively.

In addition to Perry, Dewhurst, Scott and Snyder all being Republicans (and three of the four being named ‘Rick’), another common denominator is AT&T, which gave $100,000 for the Texas inauguration and $25,000 in Florida. AT&T also donated an undisclosed amount in Michigan, where Snyder’s office released a list of donors but not donation amounts.

Tobacco company Altria donated $25,000 apiece for the ceremonies in Texas and Florida. Donations for the Florida inauguration totaled more than $2.8 million, according to the most recent contribution report.

As Slater notes in the Morning News, new California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, attended an inaugural party sponsored by a public employees union.

MN Forward draws more limited corporate support, picks up RGA backing

Posted on: October 26th, 2010 by Patrick Caldwell No Comments

MN Forward — the independent expenditure organization that received heavy criticism for using donations from Target to run campaign ads supporting Republican Tom Emmer — has raked in $1.9 million so far this year. New campaign finance reports released Tuesday morning reveal that the group continues to receive the majority of its funds from local corporations, though high-profile public companies largely shied away from contributing to the group after the Target backlash.

Agricultural business Rosen’s Diversified Inc. contributed $100,000 to MN Forward on Sept. 23 and another $60,000 on Oct. 11. Three corporations that had previously contributed $100,000 to MN Forward bumped their contributions up an extra $50,000 in October: Hubbard Broadcasting — which owns KSTP — whey protein producer Davisco Food International and Federated Insurance Companies.

MN Forward also received a $50,000 donation from the Republican Governors Association (RGA) on Oct. 15. The group had previously made a show of endorsing a wider docket of candidates outside the gubernatorial race, but the new report shows that the group is now focused solely on electing Emmer. Over 97 percent of their expenditures on candidates has gone in either supporting Emmer or opposing Democratic candidate Mark Dayton.

The RGA is currently facing a complaint filed by the Minnesota chapter of Common Cause over their donations to another conservative outside group, Minnesota’s Future. That organization’s report is not yet available online (TAI will update this information when the full report is available online), but IRS filings by the RGA earlier this month showed that the national Republican group had poured an extra $400,000 into Minnesota’s Future.

The RGA was Minnesota’s Future’s sole backer outside of a small amount contributed by the group’s registered agent in the last finance report. However, even with the organization’s full report unavailable, that is no longer the case. Minnesota’s Future has posted four 24-hour notices that reveal funding sources from outside the RGA. Those included Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc., which contributed $25,000 to Minnesota’s Future on Oct. 21, and New Horizon Feeds LLC, which added $5,000 to the group’s coffers on the same day.

The attention on corporate spending during the 2010 midterms has been a frequent target for Democrats, including President Obama, across the country. Yet Minnesota groups supporting Democratic causes picked up corporate backers during the last period as well. Win Minnesota — which has channeled money to another group named Alliance for a Better Minnesota, that has run ads attacking Emmer — received minor donations from two corporations: $25,000 from Kwik Trip Inc. and $10,000 from Anheuser Busch. The latter contribution is especially out of sync with Democratic messaging this cycle. National Democrats have pounced on reports that the US Chamber of Commerce derives some of its funds from foreign-owned corporations, and Anheuser-Busch is the American subsidiary of Belgium-based InBev. Alliance for a Better Minnesota also received minor corporate backing through a $1,000 donation from T-Mobile USA, Inc.

Win Minnesota gained further corporate money through more indirect routes. The group received $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association over the course of two donations. Those DGA funds were originally provided by a slew of corporations, including AT&T ($100,000), Hewlett Packard ($50,000) and Allegheny Energy ($75,000).