AT&T CEO Gets Blasted on USAToday

    April 6, 2011

The first newspaper to introduce color into the world of black and white print media is still going strong, effectively transitioning to Internet-based content. This, of course, is not newsworthy. However, because allows comments, every so often, there are social media issues that some companies have to deal with; and when USAToday interviewed AT&T’s CEO, readers let their displeasure with AT&T be known in the comments. This, apparently, didn’t sit well with the publication, and so, the comments were removed.

USAToday’s message seems to be, “If you don’t like the way you’re being criticized via Internet comments, delete them.” Before that, however, some tidbits from the AT&T interview. Understandably, the focus of USAToday’s interview with Randall Stephenson addressed the potential T-Mobile acquisition.

As expected, Stephenson’s content was full of corporate-speak, as well as a desire to twist the largely-negative reactions to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. While that approach is understandable, responses like these are baffling:

The large majority of Americans, when they go to buy cellphone service, have a choice of at least five providers. In 18 of the top 20 markets, the customer has a choice of five different competitors. It’s a fiercely competitive market today. It will be a fiercely competitive market after this deal is done. We don’t see that changing.

Meaning the reduction of choice by one is a good thing and will benefit consumers? If Stephenson is referring to AT&T customers who may or may not be able to access an AT&T-powered 4G network, well, good luck with all that.

While Stephenson indicates the potential merger is to improve AT&T’s infrastructure — something they themselves are incapable or unwilling to do, apparently — it is believed this attempt is merely a grab that increases the company’s customer base. When consumers lack alternatives, the ruling companies understand the power that comes from having choices decreases as well. In turn, less AT&T customers would be inclined to leave the service because of ridiculous Internet connection caps.

Considering the negativity surrounding AT&T in general, it’s no surprise USAToday readers let loose on Stephenson in article’s comment section. What is surprising, however, is the idea that USAToday would delete comments for being too critical of AT&T. According to a couple of comments, the article originally produced over 100 comments, and apparently, these were reset by USAToday, something the following responses indicate.

From reader floydcash:

why do they keep erasing all the comments and starting over? Must be ATT doesn’t like all the angry responses. Corporations looking out for corporations. Got to love our media.

Reader tiny_toes supports floyd’s position:

To funny . 100 comments bashing the thought of this merger & all the posts are reset . It looks like Randall Stevenson & AT&T can buy off more than politicians .

While this writer can’t confirm or deny whether or not there were over 100 comments, it’s easy to see that, of the 32 that remain, the disdain for AT&T and the T-Mobile deal is palpable. If USAToday’s readers are anything to go by, the public is almost unilaterally against AT&T merging with T-Mobile. Unfortunately for the American Telegraph and Telephone company, having the CEO address these concerns didn’t work as planned.

Of course, it might help if these kinds of people would stop telling us how a reduction of choice is good for the consumer.