Just why did the Government Break up AT&T?

    February 2, 2006

Google is getting a lot of attention over some of its actions-notably its agreement to filter content on its search engine in China-largely because of its oft-repeated and closely held belief that it should “do no evil.”

The fact that AT&T has never strongly asserted such a belief may explain why the company is getting less ink for some of the news it’s been making recently.

First, AT&T has jumped wholeheartedly on the bandwagon that suggests companies producing and delivering online content need to pay for that delivery. The company’s chairman and CEO, Ed Whitacre, told BusinessWeek last year, “Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment, and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!”

This echoes sentiments articulated by Bellsouth and other carriers. Of course, someone’s already paying for the use of AT&T’s pipes: Me. And you. And, of course, the content producers also already pay for their connections. The telcos, in a mind-boggling display of greed, just want more and intend to get it by introducing toll booths to the Net.

Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a lawsuit against AT&T, accusing the company of “accusing the company of aiding in the U.S. government’s secret spying on Americans’ telephone and Internet communications without warrants,” according to an All Headline News report.

All this wonderful publicity at the same time they roll out a cold, lame advertising campaign.

One of the “t’s” in AT&T stands for “telegraph.” Interesting that Western Union has shut down its telegraph service, which has been replace with newer, more efficient technologies. I find it interesting that AT&T, which was split up by anti-trust action, has re-emerged as a dominant telecommunications company despite its telegraph-era approach to business.

UPDATE: Read this piece from The Nation, headlined “The End of the Internet?”

Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.