For the last time, the Bell System is not coming back

Consumer activists in Georgia are pressing the state Public Service Commission to block or attach conditions to the pending merger between AT&T and BellSouth. No doubt there’s a bit of home team support hereââ?¬â??BellSouth is based in Atlanta and is a major Georgia employer. Still, commissions in 18 other states have approved the acquisition without conditions, and we hope Georgia sees it that way, too. Objections can be seen in an op-ed by Jenette Foreman, a steering committee member of Southern Media Justice Coalition, and in an editorial in the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph (fee for use). Both claim the merger means an end to competition and the re-emergence of the old AT&T monopoly that was dismantled in 1984. Opponents forget that at the time of its break-up, AT&T not only monopolized local and long distance phone service, it monopolized the entire supply chain. Aside from an odd component or line card, Western Electric manufactured everything that went into the network. Today’s AT&T buys from a wide variety of suppliers, including Georgia’s own Scientific-Atlanta (which is part of Cisco Systems, another major vendor to the industry). Scientific-Atlanta employs 7,700 people. As part of a $195-million contract announced last year, Scientific-Atlanta is building the innovative IP set top boxes used with AT&T’s IP video service, which the company will likely expand into the BellSouth region after merger is complete. That means more business for Scientific-Atlanta and its suppliers and more video options for Georgia’s consumers. As for ending competition, that assertion ignores reality. Cable companies added almost 700,000 voice customers during the second quarter to reach a total telephony customer count of 6.4 million, according to this week’s IP Media Monitor (subscription required). Turnabout is fair play, as telephone companies provide video services to some 2 million.