May 24, 2006 4:25 PM PDT

Protesters face off with Verizon, AT&T

Protesters lined streets on both coasts Wednesday to bring public awareness to the telecommunications policy debates currently going on in Washington, D.C., and to show opposition to the phone companies reportedly providing customer records without a court order to the National Security Agency.

The protest, called National Day of Out(R)age, was staged in several cities throughout the United States, including New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

Recent consolidation among telecommunications providers has made many people wary of the concentrated power the new mega-phone companies wield, especially in Washington, D.C., where they are spending millions of dollars to lobby Congress as it makes changes to the Telecommunications Act. This, coupled with reports that the phone companies helped the National Security Agency compile a database of Americans' phone records, has raised eyebrows among watchdog groups and concerned citizens.

Photos: Calling all telecom protesters

"Communication policy should be decided in a democratic fashion," said Michael Eisenmenger, of a nonprofit group called saveaccess.org, who helped organize the protest in New York City. "And it doesn't look like that is happening today. These companies are spending millions of dollars lobbying and setting Astroturf front groups. And we think someone needs to look out for the public interest."

In New York City, about 50 to 60 people lined the street in front of Verizon Communications' worldwide headquarters in downtown Manhattan, chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho, greedy telcos gotta go!"

Protesters seemed most concerned about proposed federal legislation that would let AT&T and Verizon, both in the process of upgrading their networks to offer TV service, apply for a nationwide video franchise instead of negotiating individual deals with municipalities.

Opponents to this legislation say national franchises would allow phone companies to redline or serve only affluent communities while also cutting funding for public access stations for large cities, such as New York.

The New York City Council also opposes the national franchise legislation and earlier this month voted unanimously to urge Congress to maintain local control of public rights-of-way and to oppose the Communications, Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE), the national franchise bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.

A Verizon spokesman said the concerns voiced by New York City Council members and the protesters are overblown.

"The COPE bill provides for virtually everything these people are looking for," said John Bonomo. "Our objective is to get as much choice out to the customers in the quickest way."

About a dozen protesters convened outside AT&T Park (formerly SBC Park) in San Francisco before a Giants baseball game. They held up signs telling AT&T to "stop wiretapping Giants fans" and exhorted baseball fans to switch to the left-leaning Working Assets long-distance provider.

The fans seemed, for the most part, amused or uninterested. But the protesters did succeed in chasing off AT&T representatives who set up a publicity table outside the stadium and quickly decamped after being surrounded by megaphone-wielding activists.

New York City protesters also voiced their concern over the phone companies' alleged cooperation with the NSA to assemble a large database of Americans' phone records.

Udi Ofer with the New York Civil Liberties Union told the crowd that his organization has sent a letter to New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer asking that he investigate the phone companies.

"It is not up to Verizon or AT&T to act as a court of law," he said. "If they handed over phone records to the government, then they violated the law."

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22 comments

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Tired of the Noise
I think that it is about time to have this stop. The news media has turned nothing into an uproar. As long as the Government is not listening to the conversations they should have full access to the record of who is being called by whom, if it stops criminal or terror attacks. Lets stop making trouble and tell the truth about what is going on. The only ones that would protest then is the criminals.

The people out walking the streets in protest of the Phone companies should find better things to do with their lives like get a job.
Posted by Ray1024 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Freedom!
You can give up YOUR freedoms if you want, but not MINE!
Posted by DudeDragon (3 comments )
Link Flag
Agree with Tired of the Noise
If you aren't doing anything illegal why would you care who is looking at your telephone calls. I agree the media is blowing this totally out of proportion. In fact in this article 50-60 people in New York City or a dozen people in San Francisco. That is hardly a crowd! Let the NSA do there business of keeping us save from terrorism and other criminal activity.
Posted by capesp50 (3 comments )
Link Flag
You don't get it.
"The news media has turned nothing into an uproar."

I would hardly call warrentless surveillance and accumulation of phone records for million of innocent Americans nothing.


"As long as the Government is not listening to the conversations they should have full access to the record of who is being called by whom, if it stops criminal or terror attacks."


We don't know they're not listening to conversation because most of the details are classsified. All we do have is the governments words (I am not inclined to take the government at it's word when it's lied so many times in the past) and a lot of stone-walling by the AG and others. The FBI was recently found to be illegally keeping files on groups like Green Peace and others that have been vocal critics of the administrations policies. There is real potential for abuse, and there is a history of past abuses.


"The only ones that would protest then is the criminals."

That's completely false. There are people who expect the government to abide by the law and only invade their privacy when necessarly ie. when they have warrant issued by a judge and have shown probable cause.


"The people out walking the streets in protest of the Phone companies should find better things to do with their lives like get a job."

Do you know for a fact those people don't have jobs? I didn't think so. It's clear you have little in the way of argument if all you can do is belittle people who don't agree with you.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
Noise?
As we approach Memorial Day, it would be nice to really give
thought about the thousands upon thousands who have died to
preserve our freedom. Have they sacrificed their lives in vein?

Privacy is a basic and necessary human right. No individual nor
government body have the right to invade our private space
without merit. The collection of data is too broad and there are
no safeguards in place to ensure this information won't be used
in other ways.

I was watching "The Sound of Music" with my daughter over the
weekend and was struck by a very profound line, as the Nazis
seized control of Austria: "We make it our business to know
everything."

It is short-sighted to believe that NSA domestic spying is for our
own good. Even the Patriot Act- nothing more than a band-aide
in the face of crisis- should be allowed to prevail over the course
of time. History has proven time and time again that greed and
corruption topple all great empires. When our forefathers
drafted our constitutional rights, they were well aware of a
simple fact: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Posted by stobiemas (1 comment )
Link Flag
Guilty or Innocent, it doesn't 'freaking' matter.
It doesn't matter whether or not people are doing something illegal. The administrations of the world have a horrible policy of abusing information and control over the general population.
-------------------

Look at it from a bigger point of view:
Goal of Terrorists: Destroy or deficate on the values of the enemy, bring them 'in line; with your people.
Seems to me that by removing your freedoms for ANY reason you're giving into the terrorists.
Seems mighty unpatriotic to me.
------------------
"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security" -Benjamin Franklin.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
privacy is important after all
It's good to see that the ambivalence towards the lack of actual privacy in communications is fading. But, connect the dots, people. If your phone records are available to scrutiny, so is your email. Do the masses want private email as well? At least with email, you can get privacy yourself by using encyption software that keeps even you ISP out. Want to keep it truly private? Stay off the phone and use encrypted email like Taceo instead.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.essentialsecurity.com/products.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.essentialsecurity.com/products.htm</a>
Posted by 209979377489953107664053243186 (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Next Generation
EXACTLY!!!! but hey think about how our freedoms keep diminishing (sp?). I'm 20, and I know for a fact that when my grand children are 20 I'll be yelling save our freedom and they will be going
"Oh grandpa your such a fudy dudy (sp?). I don't care if my microchips in my close say exactly where I am at exactly what time"
Posted by t86y (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What next generation?
If the government doesn't defeat the jiahdis, there won't be any next generaton, or if there is, they will be radiated mutants asking you, "Daddy, why didn't you let the government stop the terrorists before they turned us into this?"
Posted by tnugent (10 comments )
Link Flag
Protesters are de facto suicide bombers
leave it to the NY ACLU to in effect try to call in an air strike on its own position by sicing Elliott Spitzer on phone companies doing their patriotic duty to help the federal government protect their customers.

This is de facto suicide bombing of those of us who have the common sense to realize stopping terorism is worth the risk of having Uncle Sam know where we order our pizzas.

Hopefully Spitzer will rise above his usual electioneering populism and realize that having his fingerprints on the sequel to 9/11 would not be good for his career.
Posted by tnugent (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Know history or network analysis?
If you read up on them, you won't look like a tool.
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Link Flag
 

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