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About 60 protesters lined the street in front of Verizon Communications’ worldwide headquarters in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday. A group calling itself SaveAccess.org organized the protest, called National Day of Out(R)age, to bring public awareness to the telecommunications debate currently going on in Washington.rn
rnDemonstrations were staged in several additional cities throughout the country Wednesday, including Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.
Protesters in New York voiced their concern over legislation that would grant phone companies a federal franchise to offer TV service. They also oppose legislation that does not provide any protection for Net neutrality. rnrn
In addition, the group used the opportunity to voice concern over the phone companies’ alleged cooperation with the National Security Agency to assemble a large database of Americans’ phone records.
Outside AT&T Park (formerly SBC Park) in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, protesters hold up signs telling AT&T to “stop wiretapping Giants fans!” AT&T representatives, who had set up the usual publicity table outside the stadium, decided that not all publicity is good publicity. After being surrounded by megaphone-wielding protesters, they began to pack up.
Activists suggesting Americans switch to the long-distance provider Working Assets surround an AT&T van and marketing table outside San Francisco’s AT&T Park (formerly SBC Park). AT&T is fending off lawsuits and congressional questions about its participation in a National Security Agency surveillance program that allegedly scooped up large portions of domestic Internet traffic.
Protesters shout anti-AT&T slogans at baseball fans entering AT&T Park (formerly SBC Park) in San Francisco on Wednesday. Some passersby are skeptical, calling the demonstration a lot of fuss about nothing.
Udi Ofer of the New York Civil Liberties Union tells the Manhattan crowd that his organization is not opposed to government surveillance, but that the government needs reasonable cause and court permission before it wiretaps citizens. “It is not up to Verizon or AT&T to act as a court of law,” Ofer said. “If they handed over phone records to the government then they violated the law.” rn
rnThe NYCLU sent a letter to New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer on Wednesday asking that he investigate the phone companies.
Several organizations in New York City are concerned that the proposed TV franchise legislation before Congress will significantly cut funding for public-access channels in larger cities. But a Verizon representative said the concerns are overblown and that the company has already said it will pay necessary franchise fees and provide public access.
About a dozen activists, some with megaphones, draw curious stares outside of AT&T Park before a baseball game on Wednesday. The San Francisco activists, taking part in the National Day of Out(R)age, accuse AT&T of illegally turning over subscriber records and Internet and voice traffic to the National Security Agency. For its part, AT&T says it cooperates with legal requests but has not otherwise commented on the allegations.