Something Has Spooked AT&T Enough To Warrant Bringing Their Top Lobbyist Out Of Retirement

from the pressing-legislative-agenda dept

For years, top AT&T Lobbyist Jim Cicconi was the man that drove much of the telco's controversial policy apparatus, most recently the company's successful quest to kill net neutrality and effectively neuter the FCC. Cicconi's charm was frequently on display in his blog posts whining about things like the FCC increasing the speed definition of "broadband", or in the company's astroturfing efforts to undermine most if not all consumer protections governing the telecom sector (though it's worth noting he wasn't particularly, personally keen on Donald Trump).

Cicconi retired a few years back, but his successor Bob Quinn didn't have an easy go of it. Quinn was fired after reports emerged that the company had paid former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen $600,000 (using the same shell company used to pay hush money to Trump’s alleged former partner Stormy Daniels) to gain additional access to the President, something AT&T called a "serious misjudgement." As a result, AT&T's entire External & Legislative Affairs (E&LA) group instead began reporting to AT&T General Counsel David McAtee to, one would assume, keep the unit on a more legal trajectory.

But this week AT&T quietly brought Cicconi back from retirement to tackle something that has apparently spooked the telecom giant:

"Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s long-time top policy exec who retired in September 2018, is back, at least temporarily, according to an internal AT&T note confirmed by a sources. AT&T said that move was made "given the pressing legislative and regulatory agenda we face in Washington D.C. and elsewhere." Cicconi Monday (Sept. 16) returned to AT&T Washington on an interim basis as senior executive VP or external and legislative affairs, reporting to AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.

Plenty of things may have spooked AT&T enough to warrant bringing their former top lobbyist out of retirement, even if AT&T has been a historic beneficiary of (unearned) tax breaks and regulatory favors in the Trump era.

One, the company is facing a growing investor revolt due to ongoing TV subscriber losses and the growing sense that just maybe spending $150 billion on mergers (making AT&T the most indebted company in the world) may not have been the best choice. AT&T saddled itself with debt to dominate the streaming space, only to find subscribers running to the exits in the wake of company decisions to raise rates to pay off said debt. AT&T's problems are compounded on that front by an array of new, overcomplicated brand offerings that have even confused AT&T.

There's several other issues that could be making AT&T nervous, not least of which is growing calls for more meaningful privacy legislation in the wake of endless hack and location data scandals. AT&T lobbyists successfully convinced Congress to kill modest FCC rules on that front a few years ago. They've also been hugely successful in convincing lawmakers that "big tech" should be the exclusive focus of Congressional, regulatory, and antitrust scrutiny while telecom gets a free pass. But efforts in California to pass tougher privacy rules (despite the flawed and rushed nature of some of the language) may be making AT&T brass nervous.

AT&T execs are also likely nervous about a looming decision in the 23 AG lawsuit against the FCC (for repealing net neutrality without basing said decision on, you know, actual facts). Should the FCC lose that lawsuit (a ruling in which is expected to drop any day now), some or all of the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules (and corresponding authority) would be restored, and Cicconi is likely the perfect candidate to complain endlessly about the terrible unfairness of AT&T not getting its way in press and policy venues.

Filed Under: bob quinn, jim cicconi, lobbying
Companies: at&t


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 11:35am

    Corporate Welfare

    Anything that can trigger a massive lobbying effort must be good for consumers. Can't wait to see what has them scared.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 4:22pm

      Re: Corporate Welfare

      If AT&T starts running scared, you do not want to be in front of them... you will get flattened by AT&T as it passes.

      Nor do you want to be behind them - whatever is chasing them will be worse than AT&T. At best, it'll merely not notice you, trample you and keep going.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 12:20pm

    Rather than address the issue(s), it is much easier to hire a mouth piece.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    E. Madge Indat, 19 Sep 2019 @ 12:32pm

    "Something" compels Techdirt minion to report on NOTHING.

    This is like making toast without bread. Yes, you have a toaster, it glows, there's even a whiff of heated bread from prior crumbs, but NO SUBSTANCE.

    Next hallucination, please.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 12:41pm

      If you don’t like what’s written here, go read another blog. Mike isn’t going to let you hatefuck him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:05pm

        Re: likes-only?

        ...so the Comments sections here are strictly for people that like every article in Techdirt ?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:09pm

          Re: Re: likes-only?

          No, people who hate the articles are welcome here. And readers are welcome to down-vote their posts if they lie and spew hate without any real basis for their criticism.

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          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:32pm

          A difference exists between people who politely disagree with Techdirt articles and the handful of assholes who hate the site but can’t seem to stop coming here. If you can’t see that difference…well, like the inability of the assholes to go somewhere else, that is a personal problem.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 2:22pm

          Re: Re: poseurs-only?

          That’s so pretty lousy trolling. Do better next time bro.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 12:52pm

      If you don't like the stories here I'm sure the ones you put out on your blog are much more interesting?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:36pm

      Re: "Something" compels Techdirt minion to report on NOTHING.

      Where there is smoke, there is fire..
      The bread was there,
      Lets find it..
      Find who took it..Who ate it, who stole it, WHO/WHAT did what..

      Or just pick it up off the floor..and blame the dog/Cat/gerbil..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      lucidrenegade (profile), 20 Sep 2019 @ 4:42am

      Re: "Something" compels Techdirt minion to report on NOTHING.

      This describes your comments perfectly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 20 Sep 2019 @ 8:02am

      So you're finally answering our question

      so you do smell toast, bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 12:39pm

    No mention of the Hemisphere scandal where AT&T is commercially selling customer metadata to law enforcement?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 12:40pm

    AT&T still hasn't gotten over...

    Harold H. Greene.

    He got it right.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:09pm

    why Cicconi valuable?

    "Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s long-time top policy exec "

    so does Cicconi MAKE AT&T policy or merely help implement it as a Lobbyist ?

    Why is he so valuabel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:14pm

    In other news ... WSJ says AT&T is looking to dump DirectTV

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:39pm

      Re:

      Who ever got ATT to buy up all the recent corps, should be Shot..
      Its like a Kid WANTING something but grabs everything pretty..and dont get what he wanted..
      Or buying that GREAT Model set, only to find its 4 levels above what you wanted to build...More pieces and instructions then you can follow..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2019 @ 1:53pm

      Re: at@scree

      The beast is scared lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bt, 19 Sep 2019 @ 2:50pm

      Re:

      I have made comments about AT&T in the past, we used to consult pretty extensively for them for many years.

      When AT&T makes an acquisition, you can be assured they will destroy it or incinerate a lot of market value. You can also assume that the business they are entering is already crowded because, they are late to enter the business area, so they will need to overpay. And you can also be assured that they will enter this market segment at the worst time, and all the smart money is selling.

      Their business case will essentially be "Hey we're AT&T, once we put our name on this thing and bundle it with our other things, it will really take off". And they also think that the AT&T name will allow them to charge more, because they deeply believe the AT&T name is a magical thing.

      They can't help it, it is in their DNA. All these acquisitions of cable properties RIGHT at the exact moment that everyone is cutting the cord is classic AT&T.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 20 Sep 2019 @ 6:13am

    Starlink

    If I were AT&T, I'd be terrified by Starlink.

    https://www.starlink.com/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink_(satellite_constellation)

    https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/09/spacex-says-itll-deploy-satellite-broadband- across-us-faster-than-expected/

    Real competition = Scary.

    Watch AT&T try to get it outlawed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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