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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ma Bell's Big Brother

From the WSWS:
In many respects, the corporate colossus resulting from the merger will have greater sway over communications and the dissemination of information than the government-regulated telephone monopoly that existed before the breakup of the Bell system in 1984. The new AT&T will control, for large parts of the US, not only telephone service, but also a major share of wireless communications, cable and Internet service, and the merged company will seek to utilize the technological advances of recent years to enter the broadcasting market.

This process of reintegration and re-monopolization of telecommunications in the US takes place under far different conditions than those which existed in the days of the government-regulated telephone monopoly. Today there is no serious government regulation, the telecommunications unions—the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers—have long since abandoned any genuine defense of the workers’ interests, and wages, benefits and working conditions have been eroded. As a result, the new AT&T and its rival corporate giants will profit from a more intensively exploited work force.
The telecom giants today control much more than the traditional local and long-distance phone service provided by the old AT&T. These companies are now vertically integrated, including wireless phone networks, as well as cable and Internet services.
[T]hese corporate giants are solidifying their control over the Internet by dominating broadband internet access. BellSouth has a massive wire network reaching over 1 million homes in the United States.

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), reacted to the merger by stating, “AT&T wishes to be lord of the digital domain, able to impose a raft of tolls, fees and what they term ‘monetization’ strategies for the Internet—whether it comes to us via wires or wireless devices.”

The CDD warned, “Instead of the Internet reflecting what the federal courts not long ago called ‘the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed,’ it’s now threatened to be reduced to what AT&T called its private ‘pipes.’”

Most analysts are agreed that government approval of the deal is assured. The Bush administration has already allowed a number of major mergers, and openly favors the further monopolization of economic life.

AT&T has already played a role in facilitating the Bush administration’s attacks on democratic rights. According to press reports, it is one of the companies that has allowed the National Security Agency access to its telecommunications switches, as part of the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying program that was disclosed late last year.