AT&T has purchased DirecTV, and Comcast Corp. is eyeing Time Warner Cable, Inc. with that same greedy, controlling motive in mind. Is anyone else having flashbacks to the pre-“Ma Bell Breakup” era? In case you have forgotten, there used to be only one telephone company – the Bell Operating Companies (controlled by AT&T). In those days, you didn’t own your telephone – you rented it from the phone company, and you paid an additional fee for every telephone and telephone jack in your home. Long distance rates were so high there was a time when few used the service, except for emergencies. A long distance call typically meant a death in the family or other catastrophic news. Further, a variation on the long distance call was person-to-person, which was basically a type of insurance, so if the person you were calling was not there, you wouldn’t have to pay a long distance charge for nothing. That is just how cost prohibitive the overall service was.
Fast forward to January 1984, when an antitrust lawsuit originally filed against AT&T in 1974, was finally effective, and resulted in divestiture, or what has come to be known as the “break up of Ma Bell,” essentially allowing other companies to compete in the telecommunications business. It remains somewhat questionable as to how much control AT&T still had over much of the industry. However, consumers finally had some choices for their telephone company, long distance providers, etc., and the competition resulted in lower rates, as well. The competition and subsequent race to provide the most advanced services also resulted in explosive technological advances, such as more extensive use of fiber optics.
Cable TV and Internet providers have basically re-enacted scenarios similar to the original monopoly and divestiture of our one telephone company society, while honest legislators and public utility regulators struggle to keep these areas open to competition.
Somehow, we seem to have regressed, and appear to be back at the proverbial “square one” the “GO” square in Monopoly, and I don’t mean just the board game – but, the anti-free-enterprise epidemic.
Now, for the proverbial “call to action:”
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