The AT&T-BellSouth merger is a done deal.
Essentially AT&T agreed to apply network neutrality to its main network for at least 30 months, but did not extend that promise to its IP TV network. The key to AT&T has always been getting into TV, and a promise to take on all TV comers would violate the principles companies like Comcast long established, which is that they control the vertical, the horizontal, and the channel offerings, so they collect from the operators and the free market doesn’t work.
Dave believes AT&T will simply move everything to its IPTV network, essentially defining everything as IPTV, and then start trying to charge Web sites blackmail for access to its backbone, not to mention "its" customers (which Ed Whitacre insists it owns).
What this battle has revealed is the incredible distrust that
run-of-the-mill consumers have to the phone company, on a par with
their feelings for their cable operators and cell phone operators
(notice a pattern).
This distrust is well-placed. The Bells and cable operators are not
interested in a free market. They are not really interested in the
Internet as it exists, but the Internet they can control.
So what can consumers do now?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I’m getting my phone line turned off. For
now I’ll switch it to my cell phone. It will mean the money goes to the
same place, but for now that can’t be helped. And maybe, later, I’ll
move it again, to my cable company.
That’s $80/month which BellSouth and MCI were getting that they won’t
be getting, as opposed to a few dollars a month for a new cell line.
And I keep my phone number.
That’s what this little ewok is doing. You can probably do the same. Detach yourself from AT&T in every way you can.
But I’m not giving up on the larger effort. And neither should you. AT&T demands careful
watching. We need to make a case, over the next two years, that this
company is doing what we say they’re doing — destroying the U.S. lead
in Internet technology for its own greed.
And then, after we have established the case, we make it to the new Administration in Washington, and get this giant broken-up.
What the Internet needs, demands, and will get is a free market. A free
market for access, a free market for content, a free market for users
and providers both, at every level.
This is a compelling political demand, a demand that policymakers will
respond to, once they’re no longer in the pocket of big business.
Regardless which party wins in 2008, I expect that to be the case in 2009.
So we have our work cut out for us. But it’s good work, and it’s a job
we can do. AT&T has promised not to violate net neutrality on its
backbone, and for its consumer Internet services, until mid-2009 at the
Let’s get to work.