Ma Bell, Resurrected?

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 6 2006 6:38 PM

Ma Bell, Resurrected?

Bloggers are perusing a massive telecom merger that would mostly reconstitute "Ma" Bell; they're also recovering from the Oscars and pontificating about a former Taliban spokesman enrolled at Yale.

Ma Bell, resurrected? AT&T is purchasing BellSouth for $67 billion. Many believe that the move would essentially recreate "Ma" Bell, the telecom monopoly that the government broke up in 1984. Even though the industry is more complex now, with the Internet, cell phones, and cable, some bloggers are alarmed.

IT blog Datamation's Mike Pastore opines, "If a company like AT&T is gobbling up telecom companies at an astounding rate, and companies like Qwest and Verizon have to keep up, you'd think VoIP players like Vonage and SunRocket are going to look appetizing to someone. If that happens, there will be even less competition out there. Then it starts looking like 1982 all over again."

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But Mostly Common Sense Re: Networks' Paul Callahan, a wireless networking guru, dismisses the merger as "delusional;" he argues that Verizon has superior coverage, and cable companies like Comcast "have proven they can deliver voice and data as well as video content." Until AT&T surmounts these issues, the deal "is nothing more than two old boys slapping each other on the back."

On ZDNet, techblogger Russell Shaw extensively analyzes the deal and notes that it probably won't be held up by the administration. Although FCC nominee Robert McDowell has previously opposed the merger, Shaw concludes that the current merger-friendly administration won't brook any opposition from him: "[T]hink of Robert McDowell as the 'Samuel Alito' of telecommunications- inspected and selected."

The Agonist's liberal Sean-Paul Kelley cautions against AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre: "Last time he said people that expected a free ride were nuts. This time he sounds more diplomatic, yet has a lot more power … See, that's what happens when you have a monopoly. You can force people to pay for your service." Kelley also links to this primer explaining why consumers should resent any extra charges that telecoms impose upon Internet content providers.

And on the Progress & Freedom Foundation's blog, libertarian Adam Thierer predicts, "Thanks to [AT&T]'s imperial ambitions, both telco and cable operators are now going to face an ambitious new regulatory regime for their broadband offerings. Welcome to the world of common carriage regulation for the Internet!"

Read more about the AT&T and BellSouth merger.

Oscars: The 78th Annual Academy Awards aired last night. Bloggers are weighing in on everything from host Jon Stewart's performance to why Brokeback Mountain didn't win best picture.

On Reason's blog Hit and Run, Jesse Walker hails Jon Stewart "for repeatedly poking a pin in the pretensions of the Hollywood crowd. As the night wore on, the audience seemed to warm to him -- and he, in return, seemed to exude more and more contempt." But Californian Phammer1967 claims that Stewart was "smarmy, way too proud of himself and stiff as a board."

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