AT&T: The Evil Empire

Since earlier this year, the telecommunications company AT&T has been expanding at an alarming rate. First, they absorbed Bell South. Next, they assimilated Cingular. Now, they hold the exclusive rights to the iPhone’s network. And yet, even though I listen to enough liberal radio to kill a horse, I haven’t heard a single outcry about this. Somebody has to say something. I guess that’s me, now.

Now, I don’t know just how far AT&T is planning to take this, and perhaps I’m just being paranoid, but it certainly seems that “The Evil Empire” — as I call it — is heading very quickly for monopoly territory. This makes me quite nervous.

First of all, in a monopoly, there is no competition, so there is no reason to set prices at a competitive rate. After all. in a monopoly situation, there is no competition. And since the only viable telecom network is the one that covers a majority of the service area, even if AT&T doesn’t take over every other provider, they’ll still have an effective monopoly, being the only ones that can provide broad-ranging coverage.

Secondly, if AT&T goes monopolistic, then there will be no reason for them to maintain any standard of quality. After all, with no real competition, they have no reason to spare the expense. Who else could their customers go to?

But perhaps the most frightening — and admittedly most paranoid — of the possibilities, should AT&T consume the whole market, is the potential for the abuse of democracy. The Internet is one of the most democratic media of exchange on Earth, and has been since its inception. However, who’s to say how this might change if one company has control over all the Internet access routes? I myself access the Web through a DSL modem now run by AT&T (it wasn’t my idea; when I signed up it was still Bell South). Suppose they didn’t like what I was writing about them. “Oops, Mr. Asymptote, it looks like your phone line has suffered some sort of inexplicable catastrophic failure.”

Think about it.

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