AT&T Scores $1 Billion Contract To Rebuild DOJ Systems
from the blurred-lines dept
AT&T is increasingly becoming one of those companies that’s so bone-grafted to the government, it’s getting harder to determine where the telecom giant ends and the government begins. Reports have already explored how AT&T is effectively fused to the NSA; the company provides the government widespread access to every shred of data that traverses its network, and its employees can often be found acting as government intelligence analysts.
Granted after some early concerns about corruption, AT&T has also been tasked with building the nation’s $47 billion emergency communications network, FirstNet. And this week the company also netted a new $1 billion, fifteen-year contract to rebuild the Department of Justice’s computer systems:
“AT&T has won a $984 million, 15-year contract to help upgrade the US Department of Justice’s technology systems. The deal will see AT&T move more than 120,000 DOJ employees in 2,100 offices to a new communications platform for mobile voice and data, cybersecurity and cloud services. While it doesn’t cover 5G for now, the next-generation networking service could be added on later.”
Aside from that whole DOJ lawsuit against the Time Warner merger (which was likely more about pleasing Rupert Murdoch than reining in corporate power), AT&T has been having a hell of a run under the Trump administration. It not only got to effectively hand pick the head of the FCC, it then was showered with incalculable billions in regulatory favors (like killing net neutrality and broadband privacy rules), before getting showered in billions more in favors thanks to the Trump tax cut.
The problem of fusing a historically anti-competitive monopoly to government should be fairly obvious. Especially given AT&T’s repeated ethical challenges. This is a company that in just the last few years AT&T has been: fined $18.6 million for helping rip off programs for the hearing impaired, fined $10.4 million for ripping off a program for low-income families, fined $105 million for helping “crammers” (by intentionally making such bogus charges more difficult to see on customer bills), and fined $7.7 million for turning a blind eye while drug dealers ran a directory assistance scam on its customers.
That’s before you even get to AT&T’s routinely anti-competitive behavior, concern over which has been widely sidelined given the laser-like focus on “big tech.” Recent tech policy conversations almost exclusively focus on Silicon Valley giants, yet oddly exclude the threat of telecom monopolies from the conversation, another Trump era favor to AT&T. Of course telecom lobbyists are more than happy to have the entirety of recent policy conversations fixated on “big tech” and not telecom, given the latter is trying desperately to disrupt the former’s stranglehold over online advertising.
Which is all to say that maybe at some point in addition to trying to fix the problems with “big tech,” we could shift at least a portion of the tech policy conversation back to unethical, anti-competitive telecom monopolies we’re happily bone-grafting to the US government? Just a thought.