Big Brother AT&T 18

Ya’ll aint going to believe this. It really happened this morning, and the folks at AT&T admit it. Here’s what happened.

I am a customer of AT&T Uverse TV, Internet, and home telephone. All my entertainment is delivered by AT&T, and they do a good job. AT&T is expensive, but after trying to deal with Charter Cable for year after year, I was glad to pay more for good TV, telephone, and Internet service. Plus, AT&T customer service is always friendly, and they follow-up.

This morning, I had arisen about 8:45, turned on the bedroom TV, and was in the process of choosing the day’s wardrobe. Since this is a Friday, and there was no grandchild care on my calendar, I was preparing to do some work around the house and yard. I chose the five year old, faded and slightly dirty, Wrangler jeans. Swooping them up from the floor, I also spied a rag of a shirt that was perfect for the activities planned.

That’s when the TV started making those Emergency Alert sounds. You know, the tones that sound like you have tuned into a fax machine. Along with the noise there was a red-bordered text box at the top of the screen that said something like:

“This is an emergency alert. Your television will be force-tuned to another channel for you to receive an emergency message. This action is being taken as requested by the White House. ASTGA02 (message number)…”

AT&T Uverse force-tuned my television from the Fox News Channel to the local NBC network affiliate channel and their morning news program.

To make matters worse, I could not change channels or look at the channel guide. AT&T had complete control over my television set, and they were supposedly being ordered to do so by the White House.

This had to be a really big emergency for such action, and I kept waiting for the emergency message. The message never appeared.

I power reset the TV, and it returned to the Fox News Channel for about sixty seconds, at which time the Emergency Alert Message and channel force-tuning was repeated. I did this three times with the same results. The same thing happened with my TV in the den.

When I spoke to AT&T customer service, I was told that AT&T network engineers had “quickly repaired a network problem” that morning. Upon further questioning, the customer service representative revealed that the problem was, indeed, the emergency alert message and it was a nationwide event for AT&T.

So, there we have it. A mistake that demonstrated the White House capability to not only determine what we watch, but quite probably what we are watching at any one instant.

This is not only unbelievable, it is unacceptable. There’s no way around this problem as the cable company, and telephone company, have the right and responsibility to determine the health of their network and attached devices at any time.

Scary, isn’t it?

Update:  http://money.cnn.com/2014/10/24/media/att-alerts/index.html and http://www.statesman.com/news/business/u-verse-glitch-freezing-channels-with-nonexistent-/nhrBh/

18 comments

  1. Wow! I knew things were getting bad back there is the States; but this is over the top. How long were you without normal service? Were you able to learn any more about why the White House ordered this test?
    Bob, could I please have your permission to reblog your story tomorrow at Asylum Watch?

  2. I feel that the whole thing was a mistake, probably of the “fat finger” variety. However, the wording was precise indicating that the Emergency Alert message text had been prepared in advance. Yes, Jim, you may reblog.

  3. The strange thing, Kid, is that I have known for about thirty years that that control ability was in the TV boxes. I used to sell some pretty advanced stuff to cable tv companies in the 1980’s. That stuff has come around to bite me in the butt!

  4. Nice film clip, Ed. It is worrying, though, because all those science fiction books I read as a teenager talked about implants to augment intelligence and communications. First, comes Google Glass, and then Google contact lenses. Then, who knows what.

  5. Pingback: “Big Brother AT&T” a true story by Bob | Asylum Watch

  6. AOW: Those links at the bottom of the article are news articles about the incident. It did happen and it was widespread among ATT customers. The killer fact is that the White House is the only entity that is supposed to trigger such an event. I wonder if the same outfit that messed up on the Obama Care websites had anything to do with the Emergency Alert system?

  7. Bob,
    I have Verizon Fios, but only for telephone and Internet access. For television, I use DirecTV. My reasoning: Verizon’s interminable delays in effecting repairs, downed lines, etc.

  8. Bob, this is astonishing. What we all need to realize is that the recording is TAPED; someone planned, wrote and recorded that message…that’s no MISTAKE! It’s a mistake they played it but I’m thinking it was TESTING, a dry run, not honestly a mistake. I believe this was planned….written and tested. For whatever they’re planning.

  9. You are right, Z. The system is there, and it was triggered by accident. Now we know. The problem is, what can we do about it?

  10. THAT, I don’t know, Bob. I just saw where Obama’s offering American citizenships to women who don’t have their babies here…it’s horrifying

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