Our Point of ViewLike some science-fiction creature that gets blown to smithereens only to grow back together again, the old Ma Bell monopoly appears to be reassembling itself. Or so it might seem from last weekÂs proposed $67 billion merger of AT&T and BellSouth, which reunites Ma BellÂs long distance lines with four of the seven regional Baby Bells that emerged from the monopoly when it was busted up by court order in 1984. (TodayÂs AT&T is an amalgam of AT&T and three Baby Bells.)
However, the present telecommunications market bears little resemblance to the one that existed back then. These days, telephone, wireless and cable companies all compete to provide local and long distance calling and voice, data and video service. The race is on to see who can best bundle up these offerings and deliver them to homes and businesses at an attractive price.
Verizon, which is itself a consolidation of two Baby Bells and the long-distance company MCI, may have to bulk up further to meet the challenge of the new AT&T. VerizonÂs next step could be to acquire complete control of fast-growing Verizon Wireless by buying out the 45% stake that BritainÂs Vodaphone holds.
More than 20 years after the breakup of the old telephone monopoly, the industry is moving toward domination by a few huge companies that can deliver everything from dial tones to Internet service to video-on-demand. This represents a clash of the titans rather than a return to the days of the all-powerful Ma Bell.
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