A long time ago, American Telephone & Telegraph was the only communications provider. Eventually, the government realized that AT&T was a monoploy and most of today’s anti-competitive laws were formulated and the company was broken into what was called seven baby bells. In my freshmen year of high school, I wrote a terse report on the baby bells and their split from their parent.
When I wrote that report, I was looking at it from today’s perspective as an outsider. I was looking at it as, “Yeah, more companies all trying to get ahead, offering the best deals, the better services. Better, better, better.” That was true to a degree of course, one company has no competition and no real reason to lower prices until it truely has a technology advantage to do so. The government pressured the price drops instead by splitting AT&T into bits.
Recently I heard a different take on the split. This is paraphrased from a guy in the know, or at the very least with a view from those days.
Back then as one company, Bell Labs, they made everything. You know, Unix, can’t do anything without that now. Oh, they made the transistor. Really can’t do anything without that now. They were innovating back then because they had the money. Now we just buy technology because we don’t have enough money to innovate. And as one company, there was one technology that no matter where, everything used it so was easier to work with, now we have all these different technologies.
That’s true. Back then, Bell Labs made amazing things. They kind of made Unix, they essentially made the transistor and I’m sure they made other equally amazing and profounds things I use everyday and I simply don’t know about. It’s also true that different companies use different wires, jacks and thinga-ma-jigs.
After the big split, smaller regional bells bought neighboring bells and grew up. One of those was UsWest, which later turned into Qwest (hence the west in the name) and now CenturyLink. Companies change: merging and splitting. It’s the nature of the game, isn’t it? Look at Southwestern Bell, then SBC Communications, they bought their way into the AT&T name. Verizon is constructed by majority of baby bells descendants.
From AT&T we learn they want to buy T-mobile, a major competitor. Fine, but why? Because with T-mobile’s network, AT&T could expand their 3G and 4G services to all of the United States. Fine – but they forgot to mention that they could do it without buying T-mobile too. It would be only a tenth of the price to expand their own current coverage, $40 billion to buy T-mobile or $4 billion to expand it on their own. Withholdings like that cast a suspicious light on the situation.
Not enough money to innovate? I realize it’s still expensive to operate telecommunications. Fewer people do. It might as well be magic to most people, it’s still mostly scientific magic to me, but nonetheless, magic. Not enough standards? Well, pick the best one and then make everyone use it. That’s the idea of standards after all. One company’s standard isn’t a standard if there is only one company to agree to it.
The fight for land ranges on.