AT&T Files Freedon Of Information Suit

From AT&T’s press release:

AT&T today filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking it to order the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  In November 2003, AT&T filed the FOIA request with the FCC to obtain records used as the basis for a proposed $780,000 forfeiture penalty for alleged violations associated with certain telemarketing calls to consumers.

In the court filing, AT&T said that the FCC has refused to disclose, even in redacted form, more than 1,000 pages of information, which represent more than 95 percent of the records it requested under the FOIA.

“We are bringing this action against the FCC so that we can obtain the records necessary to vindicate AT&T in the FCC’s ongoing investigation,” said Len Cali, AT&T vice president — law & director of federal government affairs.  “The FCC’s failure to provide the records or a rational explanation for refusing our request denies AT&T its right to evaluate and defend against the FCC’s allegations.”

AT&T said in November that the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability alleging that it called 29 customers on 78 separate occasions in violation of federal telemarketing rules that preceded the new, much-publicized national “do-not-call” registry.  To AT&T’s knowledge, the FCC’s action against AT&T was its first enforcement action against a carrier in the 11 years since the 1992 Telephone Consumers Protection Act was in force.

“Although the FCC has refused to provide AT&T with the information needed to completely investigate the alleged violations, we have determined from the records available that the violations the FCC alleged are in many cases the product of incomplete and inaccurate investigative work,” said Cali.

AT&T said that many of the allegations appear to be the result of factual errors by the FCC or rest on inconclusive claims.  AT&T showed that it had no record of receiving a do-not-call request from the customers in nearly two thirds of the 78 telemarketing calls which formed the basis for the Notice of Apparent Liability.  AT&T said that it does not understand the FCC’s motives in raising the allegations, particularly as part of a press campaign apparently designed to garner favorable publicity for the FCC while tarnishing AT&T’s name and practices in the marketplace.

After the Notice of Apparent Liability was made public, AT&T filed a request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to defend its reputation against the FCC’s allegations. AT&T said its ability to assess whether the FCC has any credible evidence has been significantly impaired by the FCC’s efforts to conceal the facts. 

In the filing, AT&T is asking the court to order the FCC to provide an itemized index of each record withheld and the basis for withholding the documents, and to cease withholding the records lawfully available under the FOIA request.

In a separate filing today with the FCC, AT&T asked for it to delay action on the proposed $780,000 forfeiture penalty until the district court complaint is resolved.