Time Warner caught in ham-fisted DSL scam

Industrial espionage from the Beavis and Butthead school of management

In a comically oafish effort to probe the enemy's strengths and weaknesses, media behemoth Time Warner circulated a flyer among its Texas-area employees urging them to place orders for DSL service from competitor Southwestern Bell, the New York Times reports.

The scam was meant to pinpoint precisely where the competition is able to offer DSL service, presumably so that Time Warner can focus its expansion efforts on those areas where Southwestern Bell is weakest.

Time Warner employees were instructed to report the results of their inquiry - whether they were turned away or whether they were able to get connected. Those who could were instructed to order the service and cancel it as soon as the order was confirmed. Those who followed the instructions and reported their results were to receive prizes.

The sham came to an end when Southwestern Bell received copies of the flyer from appalled Time Warner employees.

Southwestern Bell was far from amused; they reckon processing an order for DSL costs them in the range of US $350. The company says it will file a complaint with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week. The company can be forgiven for noting in the presence of federal regulators that the tactic reflects rather poorly on Time Warner's corporate ethics vis--vis its upcoming merger with AOL.

Time Warner flacks claimed that the dodge was the brainchild of local-office middle management types with little schooling in the more sophisticated elements of industrial espionage.

The programme ended as soon as the Big Swinging Dicks upstairs in the teak-panelled offices got wind of it, the company claimed. ®

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