Friday, December 29, 2006

“AT&T’s New Warhammer Nearly Complete," say FCC blacksmiths.

With a few new “concessions” to appease Democrats (damn the consumer), AT&T’s acquisition of BellSouth draws ever closer and is nigh unstoppable at this point given that the deal may be approved as early as today.

(Reuters)” The No. 1 U.S. telephone carrier said it would sell off certain wireless airwaves in the 2.5 gigahertz band, offer a $19.95 per month stand-alone basic high-speed Internet service and for up to 24 months would not charge content providers like Google Inc.[…] to speed their services to consumers.

Heading briefly down memory lane, let’s revisit an interview of Chairman and CEO Ed Whiteacre by BusinessWeek on 11/07/2005.

How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google […], MSN, Vonage, and others?

How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?”

Besides the shocking hubris evident in the declaration that the “pipes” are HIS, it demonstrates nothing less than an unhinged mental state—one that knows nothing save logic (however twisted) that supports, and is motivated exclusively by, the increase of profit and control. As well, judging from recent actions on the part of the latest administration croney, FCC Chairman Martin, any hopes for future FCC actions or practices in the public interest are dim indeed.

Net Neutrality
recently won a notable battle in its efforts to not be disemboweled. However, it should be remembered and noted also that there still exists no meaningful or forceful legislation protecting the concept—any wording that would have done so was forcefully kept out of the newest telecom legislation, still leaving Net Neutrality on very shaky ground. Keep this in mind as we proceed.

All of the above mentioned (and much, much more) adds up to nothing more than AT&T, Inc. (as opposed to the old AT&T, Corp. that was broken up in 1984—wow, it’s amazing just how completely different both are) and the FCC holding the following discussion:

AT&T: Hi, FCC, nice to see you again! Been what, bit over 20 years? **hand-shaking, passing of lobby money and gifts** We’d like to go ahead and acquire BellSouth now. See, we’ve decided we want to achieve monstrosity status beyond that of our former selves, but to do that we need to take this next step. What this will do is give us the warhammer we need to begin bludgeoning pesky problems like new technologies and business models that are preventing the growth of our money mountain.
FCC: Most of the public won’t care, but some of them are gonna scream pretty loud about this.
AT&T: Just don’t mention it to them.
CITIZEN: Hey, waitaminute. Not cool. Don’t businesses and consumers already pay for a “pipe”? If they need more capacity don’t they have to pay for it already?

AT&T: **looks at FCC**
FCC: Bailiff, this is a closed session.
**tasers CITIZEN**
FCC: **faces AT&T** That would be nice, but probably won’t work. Some of those bastards are f****n nosy.
AT&T: But we’ve given you and Congress over
$230 million since ’98! What the hell?
FCC: **shrugs** Weeeell, inflation and all…..we might need for you to give some “concessions” so the dough-brained Dems will get on board.
AT&T: How about this—You give us the warhammer we need, we’ll promise not to use it on the public or other companies for, saaaaaay, up to 24 months?
FCC: **looks around** Dems?
DEMS: Huh? Where are we?
FCC: Up To 24 months is a long time, right? I mean, it’s practically forever.
DEMS: Yeah. Good, great, grand, wonderful—just do whatever. We have to figure out whose wagon we want to jump on for 2008—can’t screw that one up. **proceed to talking amongst themselves again** Obama was really cute in his speech yesterday. I know, but did you see Hillary? I think she just got her hair did; I’m thinking of getting mine like that.
FCC: **turns back to AT&T** I think we’re good.
AT&T: Thanks, we’ll let George know you can keep the job.

These concessions serve to let us know one important thing above all else. AT&T is of the mind that within 24 months of merger approval, further legal maneuvers and lobbying will enable them to put their new giant hammer to use. And if it takes longer, so what? Nothing will be lost, and it might work out better if they do just wait beyond that period. If the period of 24 months is exceeded, they can trump up how magnanimous they’ve been for so long, but due to economic “conditions” and stagnant growth in profits, they must start charging for the “free pipes” they’ve been “giving away” for so long. After all, if they can’t charge for using the “free pipes” they just might collapse.

What a tragedy that would be.