We are Bell. Resistance is futile (and elevator pitch)

In today's IT Blogwatch, we look at the fallout from the potential merger of AT&T/BellSouth. Not to mention the great space elevator ...

Yesterday we blogged on the $67B deal for AT&T to take over BellSouth, well it seems that got some folks all riled up. As Kent Newsome sings it "Time Keeps on Slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future." Kent goes on "And in the time wasting department comes news that consumer groups are going to fight the AT&T Bellsouth merger ... maybe [then] Pee Wee Hermann can fight Lenox Lewis. And then maybe Dr. Ruth can play one on one with Shaquille O'Neal ...  I'm all about being heard. And I'm all about the little guy. Heck, I'm a long time subscriber to Consumer Reports and I give money to Greenpeace. So some part of me wants to applaud when I read that Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America are going to fight the man ... the U.S., particularly the business part of it, is all about the almighty dollar. And at some point if you continue to stand between the man and his money, you're just wasting your time.  Why not take that time and money and use it where it might be able to make a difference."

» John Paczkowski: "The Ma Bell bogeyman is back ... AT&T Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre said the deal was necessary for AT&T to maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly populous market. 'We literally have hundreds of competitors coming in every day; it's nothing like the old days,'  Whitacre told the New York Times. 'If we're going to have the strength to compete, we better get our companies together.' ... The merger is subject to regulatory approval, and consumers groups are already saying they plan to lobby the Justice Department's antitrust division to reject the deal. 'If approved, this merger will lead to higher local, long distance and cell phone prices for consumers across the country,' said Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal and international affairs for Consumers Union. And consumer groups aren't the only ones looking askance at the deal. Legislators are as well."

» John's blog brought comments from Rennie Poffenberger: "This is really going backwards. We need more competition amongst the telephone companies, not less. The prices will never come down if we let this go through. I also live in the UK three months of the year and the telephone/intenet offerings there is tremendous. I can choose from at least 20 companies which are vying for my telephone and DSL business. Why don't we have the same here." Also from Tom Mariner: "The record of the 'Bell System' since the breakup is unswervingly one of anti-competitive, technology averse actions ... no question that should the full monopoly be restored every single competitor would be crushed and the rest of the world would continue its race toward broadband, leaving us even further behind ...  Yes, I guess you could say that I not only would not vote for putting the monopoly back together, but take apart the piece they have built. If, as AT&T's claim, they can't compete, then they should find something else to do for a living, or take advantage of the bankrupcy laws. If I find one of my legislators taking a dollar or a meeting from the Bell lobbyists, I will try to make that they too, have to find something else to do for a living."

» Mike, Techdirt: "as soon as the SBC, AT&T merger closed, we noted that the clock was ticking on the eventual AT&T/BellSouth merger. It took a bit longer than the 24 hours some predicted, but AT&T and BellSouth have come to a merger agreement -- suggesting the big publicity push that BellSouth put on at the time of the AT&T/SBC merger was really just a ploy to raise the price ... There's some concern as to whether or not this makes it through regulatory review, but it would be surprising if it doesn't get approved in some format (perhaps with the forced sale of certain totally meaningless parts). Consumer groups are saying they'll oppose the deal, but it's unlikely that will matter ... sell off Cingular (which is already jointly owned by the two companies) seems like a pointless suggestion that really doesn't impact the competitive issue at all ... really are concerned about competitive issues, they'd focus on network neutrality issues -- as the combined company (both parts of which have advocated ditching net neutrality) would be in a position of power when it came to offering broadband services to large parts of the country where little real competition exists."

» John Battelle: " Why do you think this is happening? Get ready for the second round of the Bell Oligarchy. With the peering and net neutrality issues once again at the fore, this should be interesting."

» Mark Evans brings up a new point: "One issue lost amid the the huge-ness of AT&T's $65-billion acquisition of BellSouth is the potential to jump-start CallVantage's growth in the VoIP market. With AT&T and BellSouth combining forces in VoIP, what does this mean for Vonage and 8X8, which has a partnership with BellSouth? An analyst told me earlier today that time isn't on Vonage's side because 'there are too many things going on in the wrong direction'. That sounds like the right sentiment to me."

Buffer overflow:

And finally... The Great Space Elevator ... come to a planet near you, soon!

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk. Also contributing to today's post: Judi Dey, our very own Antipodean.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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