So its been a few days since the big announcement AT&T/SBC is buying BellSouth.
I am fairly directly affected by this as my day job involves managing folks writing lots of software for both these companies and it is sort of scary on that front. As the RBOC re-com-bobulate (seems like it needs a new word) into one big Ma Bell shadow the IT departments get bigger and my leverage gets lower. In some sense I am a little tiny fragment of their old IT department, Bell Labs, spun off to the side and forgotten. I say shadow becuase frankly the RBOCs are a shadow of the old behemouth. The level of people and understanding and innovation at those companies does not come close to the hey-dey of Bell Labs when nearly everything in the world was invented in Murray Hill, even if they did not know how to market and serve it up to the market.
But I digress. The big issue here is really about network nuetrality. These children of Ma Bell are mean spirited and desperately want to take control of the internet and the new age of communications. They can’t do it worldwide but they are powerful enough, and cunning enough, to really retard innovation in the US. They will do this by choking the backbone in the US. The good old super highway will be a toll road if they and their pets at the FCC have their way. The toll will up the ante forcing table stakes for the future of the webback to the millions or even tens of millions. Today I can start a web service and offer it to the world for nearly nothing. Tomorrow if I need to pay for good performance that will simply retard innovation anywhere the RBOCs hold sway. So my innovative Korean competition will not just be able to compete with me but will have a head start. Not good for the US in the long term.
Some part of my idealistic nature wants to think some of the newer emerging players like Google and Yahoo will remember their roots and try and stop this from happening. I still hope they do. But they already have the table stakes. Does it help them or hurt them to retard real innovative competition? Is it good business for them to fight this battle? I really don’t like my brains answer to those questions.