[e2e] ATT and monopolies

Tom Vest tvest at pch.net
Fri May 18 14:53:30 PDT 2007

On May 18, 2007, at 4:30 PM, Bob Braden wrote:

> Ok, OK, I can't resist.
> My grandfather was a physician in Duluth, MN around the turn of the
> century. My father remembered that there were four separate phones  
> in the
> front hall of their house.  There had to be four phones, because there
> were four telephone companies in Duluth at the time.  I suspect this
> was typical of American cities at the time.
> Had the Internet developed without any regulation or initial  
> government
> support, I wonder how many Internets we would have now?  Probably at
> least the IBM Internet (SNA), the DEC Internet (DECnet), the Verizon
> Internet, the Microsoft Internet, ...
> Bob Braden

Welcome to the fuzzy side ;-)

I think we can safely say that AT&T probably solved your  
grandfather's first problem, by buying up and integrating all of the  
competing networks.
At first I bet he was quite happy to need just one handset/billing  
relationship, but before too long somewhat less happy to have to  
suffer (the observed) rising prices, as well as the (unobserved)  
absence of new features and services that never emerged. The FCC came  
into the picture in the 1930s to try to mitigate the first problem.  
We were stuck with the second problem until first the FCC Carterfone  
decision (1968) eliminated the incumbent's prerogative to deny  
permission to attach third-party devices, and eventually until the  
AT&T breakup (1984) divided the telecom market into territorial  
distinct monopoly "basic service" segments, plus an overlapping,  
extra-territorial, wide open "value added" service segment -- the  
latter of which encompassed "international", "long distance", and  
coincidentally, data. The 1996 Telecom Act was an attempt to create  
the same breakthrough in the remaining bottleneck / local access  

It was a happy time, one we are likely to remember fondly soon, now  
that most of the regulations that created the conditions for such  
great achievements have been abandoned. The anti-government, anti- 
regulation, pro-monopoly interests have largely had their way; we'll  
probably see how well this works soon enough.


More information about the end2end-interest mailing list