I was sitting around this morning, terribly depressed over the prospect of AT&T gobbling up BellSouth, when along comes Glenn, on Dave Farber’s list, looking on the bright side.
I hope he doesn’t mind if I copy his entire post:
I don’t want to be in a position to defend AT&T, and I’m not
defending them. But I would like to point out how a continent-spanning
2006 AT&T differs from Ma Bell circa 1980 or so.
- AT&T/BellSouth no longer has a monopoly on local phone service; they
have rather, a discriminatory, quasi-regulatory monopoly on wire running
from their central offices to homes. That wire is becoming less and less
valuable every day, despite their rearguard action for subsidies,
anti-competitive initiatives, tariff raising, and broadband
Competitors for local phone service:
- Local cable operator.
- Clearwire (one day).
- Cell carriers (several, plus MVNOs reselling cell
- Independent wireless network providers.
- Municipal network
- Vonage (over existing broadband if not blocked!), Skype, and
their ilk. (Vonage may be small and struggling to get their IPO out, but
Skype is now part of a multi-billion-dollar firm, eBay.)
AT&T/Bellsouth can’t restrict you from using your own phone equipmen on
their phone lines as Ma Bell once could. Remember leasing phones
AT&T/Bellsouth no longer has a monopoly on long-distance service, which
is dirty cheap or "free" (unlimited via flat monthly rate).
AT&T/Bellsouth no longer has a monopoly on dedicated lines, which, over
two decades ago, weren’t very fast but were very expensive.
This isn’t to say that AT&T/BellSouth won’t have
of scale and monopoly, but despite a regulatory
structure that is now stacked in
favor of incumbent wired, wireless, and
broadband operators, they have a fair
amount of serious competition in
each of the realms in which they operate from other