TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Foreign Directory Listings

Re: Foreign Directory Listings
4 May 2007 07:29:04 -0700

On May 3, 6:33 pm, Mark Atwood <> wrote:

> The telco(s) made the choice to be so regulated. They made that bed.
> Now they can lie in it. And I hope they die in it.

Given your attitude, I see no reason why the telco(s) should do any
business with you at all. As to phone books, there are competitive
Yellow Pages distributed. List with them.

> Adjusted for inflation, in constant dollars, my bill is lower and my
> services are better than what my parents and what my grandparents
> enjoyed.

My phone bill for basic 1 phone service is far higher -- adjusted for
inflation -- than in was in the past.

> AT&T would never have done any of that if they had suffered from
> Carterphone and then from divesture.

The old Bell System was continually reducing its rates due to new
technology. I was in college when long distance rates were reduced
which was a boon to us since we had friends all over the country.
They created a third discount level, after 11 pm/weekends, which was a

The equipment they provided was continually improved.

The explosion in electronics, microcomputers, fiber optics and
inexpensive ICs drove down the cost of service. It had nothing to do
with competition.

It was always to the Bell System's advantage to increase volume to
increase economies of scale. By reducing costs they lowered rates
which increased traffic and revenue. In some cases where rates were

> You probably want to go back to the days when it was *illegal* for two
> neighboring companies to lay down a so much as a dry pair between each
> other's buildings.

It was not illegal and commonly done. Many companies and governments
had private internal telephone networks, sometimes with thousands of
lines (often built by AE or other "independent" suppliers). I know of
instances where two separate organizations and their private networks
were connected by tie lines.

As to "going back to the days", I want:

1) to be able to talk to a customer service rep who was well trained,
experienced, intelligent, well supported, and not paid by commission.
2) To be able to get rates for any kind of unusual call (ie overseas,
pay phone) as easily as the Bell System gave them.
3) To get free prompt operator assistance when there was a problem or
4) To have 24/7 repair and no finger pointing of blame.
5) To have repair people on the street who are real employees, not
outside "contractors" who are the dregs of the society.
6) To be able to purchase a _moderately_ priced telephone that is at
least as good as a former Western Electric set was. (durability,
maintainability, sound quality).
7) Honest pricing of services and promotions.
8) For business users, a professional support staff to show to how
properly serve the public efficiently, and to discourage turret use
where there's a 15 minute hold time for an agent.
9) Reasonable job security for employees so they have loyalty and good
10) To make moderately priced toll calls (coin, credit card, collect)
from pay telephones without pre-dialing access codes.

The telcos today can't provide any of those things since all their
competitors do not. They had to be sacrificed to keep costs down.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Listen, I actually saw a case like
> this, and it was *one single customer*. The old Harper Theatre in
> Chicago (in Hyde Park) decided to run a single pair in a loop around
> their (rather large) premises from backstage to box office to upstairs
> office. ...

Pat, I really think this was an unusual situation on the part of the
phone company. I've seen many such installations -- common in theatre
-- and the phone co didn't care.

Indeed, occassionally such systems would be illegally connected to the
phone co network and the repair people would look the other way unless
it was causing a technical problem. I knew many businesses that
altered their keysets to allow multiple lines to be pressed down to
make a conference circuit.

In a history of the divesture years, it is clear that the regulators
supported this policy as much as the telco did. For one thing, they
wanted the network protected from crappy homemade installations. For
another, it was govt policy that premium services were used to cross-
subsidize very basic service. Back in those days a great many
subscribers paid only a few dollars a month for a message rate line
and one phone set. Expensive to support, limited revenue. As urban
problems hit in the 1960s, the Bell System was hit hard because so
much of its plant was in old city neighborhoods. That was costly.

So, when a business rented a switchboard or key system, part of that
rent covered those single set customers -- by intentional public

The regulators didn't want customer ownership because the lost rental
would mean individual line rates would go up. As they did.

On May 3, 8:12 pm, Fred Atkinson <> wrote:

> I'm saying that to the end user, there wasn't. He had a telephone and
> he had to pay for that service. He couldn't put anything on his line
> unless AT&T was paid to provide it.

There were some exceptions to external equipment.

As mentioned, the bundled policy was mandated by the government, not
just the Bell System. Independent companies followed it as well. For
many years other equipment manufacturers also required that for hook

> The real (explosive) revolution started when AT&T was in a position
> where they knew they had to change or be devoured by the
> competition.

No. The real revolution started when components got dirt cheap and
the economics of the situation changed.

> I see you are still brainwashed from all of the propaganda that Bell
> put out when they were fighting competition.

No, they are the facts of telephone service, whether you like them or
not. Of course, are you putting out MCI's propaganda when it claimed
an entitlement to be unregulated in a regulated marketplace?

> It is normal for businesses to pursue the most profitable markets.

Certainly it is. But you conveniently forget the Bell System, being
regulated, was forbidden to act like a regular business. It had to
serve desert wastelands and inaccessible mountain tops at tremendous
expense, yet charge the same rate as elsewhere. Unlike a normal
business, the Bell System had to share all its patents. Unlike a
normal business the Bell System offered telephone service only, it
could not offer related services or other pieces of electronic
equipment for sale or lease.

For instance, after developing Unix which was freely distributed to
the world, the Bell System could have created or bought out a computer
company and been a powerful player in the mini-computer marketplace,
making big money in the process. It was not allowed to do so.

The Bell System could have created service bureas, as computer
companies did, to provide answering services, order taking, customer
service etc. It had experience in managing such operations and the
economies of scale. It was not allowed to do so.

So, we see that you're real quick to criticize the Bell System for
what it did, but are silent on what it was not allowed to do.

If AT&T charged true costs in the markets MCI entered, MCI would be
history. But AT&T was not allowed -- by govt order -- to charge
market rates, it had to average everything nationwide. MCI, not being
under any such burden, had an advantage. It also could freely use
AT&T's technology, developed at great expense, because AT&T's patents
were public domain (again, govt mandate).

As Pat noted, MCI couldn't pay its bills on time. A "normal business"
would've refused any more connection with MCI under those
circumstances. But the Bell System, being not "normal", was forced to
take it.

Lastly, MCI gained market share though the back door of litigation,
not public policy. Many people faulted the court system for
supporting Verizon in its patent infringement case with Vonnage.
Well, the court system was wrong in giving into MCI. If public policy
was to be competition, then that should have come through the
legislature and regulators through normal channels, and AT&T given a
fair playing field. That is, removal of the restrictions that bound

> The Bell System had to be heavily regulated because it was such a
> predator. It wanted to be able to dictate the way the PSTN developed
> and how it could be used. To that end, they would have full economic
> control of the market. That's not a healthy economic subsystem by any
> means.

Interesting claim, but false propaganda. By public policy, most
utilities are granted a monopoly in return for regulation. The
electric, water, gas, streetcar/bus, steam, etc. companies all work
that way, by design.

As a tightly integrated system provider, especially one where the
fixed plant cost billions of dollars, it made economic and technical
sense for the Bell System to want to control it.

Every business determines a model for how its customers will use its
products and services. For example, IBM developed a model that was
very successful. Univac and other computer competitors did not, even
though they had computers before IBM did and were bigger companies.

> MCI's entry into the long distance market was much like defeating a
> famous fighter by techniques that would overcome the opponent (anyone
> come to mind here?).

Sure, having the other fighter tie his hands behind his back, as MCI
did to AT&T, is an easy way to win. See above. Again, if AT&T
dropped its rates in MCI areas to true costs--standard "normal"
business procedure -- MCI would be gone. But the government forbid AT&T
to do so.

> But you can't seriously be suggesting that we'd be better off with a
> totalitarian PSTN.

The fact is that divesture brought many negatives into the telephone
service world that no one seems to care about. Things have happened --
consumers and businesses have lost big money -- because of that.

I, and many other consumers and businesses, are paying more. As
mentioned, businesses have had to hire their own telecom staff to do
what the Bell System previously did for them. That mitigates savings.

The apologists for divesture defend such cumbersome practices as
dialing prefixes for calling card calls from pay phones, no rate
service, and phone bills that are more complex than the Pentagon's
budget. They ignore the fact that most consumers don't understand
their phone bills and can't keep up with the various options, often
get defrauded by "slammers".

The so-called benefits of divesture are exaggerated because of the
simultaneous effect of cheap electronics. It's like the advocates of
higher speed limits who claim higher speeds are safer. They ignore
the _simultaneous_ effects of more people wearing seatbelts and cars
having air bags as being significant factors in saving lives. (They
also ignore higher accident rates and more severe vehicle damage).

I do not object to changes when they improve things. The world has
changed, particularly technology. But I want true improvements, not
just propaganda. I've been working with industrial telephone service
for 30 years. I know the old "evil" Bell System gave us continual
technical improvements and one stop service. I know the new world is
a costly administrative nightmare.

Shifting costs from one line of a ledger to another is NOT an
improvement, that is smoke and mirrors. That's what I object to. MCI
bears blame for that.

> But they charged considerably less. And you could call your account
> rep or customer service to find out what the rates were.

I tried using MCI and Sprint repeatedly and never could get anyone.
The call would land in phone mail jail, or I'd just be cutoff dead.
Then and now.

> You are really spouting the company propaganda, aren't you?

This is well documented in independent histories of the Bell System.

> Universal Phone Service was a good thing. But you must remember
> that the utility it gave the customers it took the money from to
> subsidize these local services gave those who provided it the
> utility of calling their relatives in some small town in the middle
> of the desert (where they might have relatives or someone they are
> doing business with).

True. But if you want to change that policy, change it for ALL.
Don't let new guys in without that burden while forcing it on the old

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Lisa, you said one thing early on in
this message with which I specifically disagree: You talked about Bell
being 'forced' to take on losing territories. As a matter of fact,
Bell stubbornly refused to provide rural telephone service for many
years. President Roosevelt started the REA (Rural Electrification
Administration) for just that reason, to provide electricity and phones
to the farmers. That is the reason for many, many years there were
literally thousands of rural telephone cooperatives and societies. The
farmers put up the money (guarenteed by the REA) to build the
telephone exchanges. Bell would not touch them!

Then, lo and behold, in the 1960's as farmer's rural exchanges began
to get their debt service all paid off, Bell was more than happy to
jump in. By that time, the equipment was getting old and antiquated,
the farmer's wife had gotten too old to run the switchboard any longer
(and the farmer's daughter was not interested in running it). Bell made
sure of course the debt service was all gone, then after carefully
examining the individual circunstances decided to 'graciously' offer
to buy up the telephone cooperatives, at least many or most of them.

There are still a few rural farmer's telephone cooperatives operating
here in Kansas. I think 620-926 in Liberty, Kansas (a 'suburb' of
Coffeyville/Independence is one such.) Liberty is a one stoplight town
of about 300 people, one general store, and of course, the obligatory
road house tavern out on the highway somewhere. Its about midway
between here and C-ville on an unpaved road leading off of C-ville's
'Sunflower Street' (which is our 'Cement' Street) to the southwest
of our old Portland Cement Plant. So please don't say how AT&T was
always first in line to take the unprofitable exchanges. I think the
exchange in Liberty is profitable for its owners because Dobson
Cellular One has an 'antenna farm' out there somewhere with a jillion
foreign exchange and specialty circuits going in to it. PAT]

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