Sunday, July 6, 2008

AT&T Uber Alles?

Isn’t it funny how things come back around full-circle? Back in junior high and into my freshman year of high school, some 25 years ago or so, the Feral Gummint™ declared that AT&T had an unfair monopoly on nationwide telecommunications, and thusly began the divestiture & breakup of American Telephone & Telegraph into Regional Bell Operating Companies, or the Baby Bells. The break up of AT&T was initiated in 1974 by the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust suit. Under the terms of a settlement finalized on January 8, 1982, "Ma Bell" agreed to divest its local exchange service operating companies, in return for a chance to go into the computer business, AT&T Computer Systems. So, on January 1, 1984 the Baby Bells were born: Ameritech Corporation, Bell Atlantic Corporation, BellSouth Corporation, NYNEX Corporation, Pacific Telesis Group, Southwestern Bell Corporation, and U S WEST, Inc. (which became QWEST)

I remember the mellifluous voice of James Earl Jones telling me that “AT&T is now Bell Atlantic”. And several years later, ol’ Darth Vader was telling me that “Bell Atlantic is now Verizon…” Hmmm, so if I add 2+2, then doesn’t that kinda make Verizon the new AT&T? But wait…

Fast forward to the cell phone age. It’s late 2000 and I’d just moved to SC. There were all these choices… T-Mobile (Germany’s Deutsche Telekom), AllTel, Nextel, Verizon, Sprint, some upstart new company called Cingular, followed by SunCom and Boost Mobile. And of course, Sir Richard Branson had to add Virgin Mobile to the mix.
In 2005, SBC Communications purchased AT&T Corp., thus reuniting the venerable phone company with three of its spinoffs (SBC was composed of Southwestern Bell, Pacific Telesis, and Ameritech). The merged company became AT&T Inc. Additionally, on December 29, 2006, AT&T purchased BellSouth. Not long after that, it was announced here and there that Cingular was now to be known as AT&T.

Also in 2005, Sprint bought Nextel, becoming Sprint Nextel (how clever), and they also own Boost Mobile.

Not long ago, T-Mobile bought SunCom, and I found out last week that at the end of the year, AllTel will cease to exist and all of their customers will be swallowed up by Verizon.

So, AT&T became the Bells, some of which became Verizon, and some of the Bell which became SBC, but SBC bought AT&T who swallowed Cingular. This had the AT&T blanket now being a giant conglomerate again comprised of 4 of its original seven Baby Bells. This leaves the AT&T Megaplex, Sprint Nextel, Verizon, and T-Mobile. But don’t forget that Verizon is just another Baby Bell under a new name, so I look eventually for it to merge again with AT&T on the Mother Ship, creating an almost-monopoly. Soon it’ll be AT&T vs. Sprint Nextel for global dominion, with the Germans chasing to keep up, and Virgin Mobile just being a cute side project for the yuppie crowd, since they’re just a name only and not a network. Yeah, they’re symbiote parasites; in the UK they use T-Mobile’s network, and in the USA they use Sprint Nextel’s. TracFone is the same way. They use pretty much everybody’s networks.

Cricket Wireless, another new upstart, is like the cell phone equivalent to trying to watch hockey on TV. You might see a game now & then on NBC, but since the NHL carries most of its games on Versus, and so few systems carry Versus, you’re screwed. I’ve heard they’re coverage is so shoddy that you can’t even make it all the way across Charleston without dropping a call for lack of coverage.

It took 25 years, but AT&T pretty much beat the rap that the Feral Gummint™ and is rapidly gaining momentum. Y’know, after Germany was disarmed after World War One, it was less than 20 years before it regrouped into something even larger & more dangerous.

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