[e2e] ATT and monopolies

Dave Eckhardt davide+e2e at cs.cmu.edu
Fri May 18 14:54:49 PDT 2007

> 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.

Thus calling into question the idea that telephone service is a
natural monopoly.  In fact, the costs of laying wire, etc., were
*not* so high that it would have been insane for real competition
to exist, because it did--until AT&T talked the state and federal
governments into supporting one system (except for obscure outlying
areas they weren't interested in serving).

> 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, ...

The four-phones situation was back when switching was expensive and
painful.  I expect that as the price came down it would have been
possible to make cross-network calls...

...as, indeed, it is possible for me to place a call from my
Verizon CDMA phone to my TA's Cingular GSM phone.  The companies
compete on things like calling plans, who has the cooler phones,
who has fewer dropped calls, etc., without denying access to
each other's customers.

While the actual path we took to get here involved the government
making a monopoly and then splitting it up, it is by no means
obvious either that only this path would have got us here or
that all future networks need to follow that path.  Somehow we
have competing Ethernet vendors without (as far as I'm aware)
government regulation.

Dave Eckhardt

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