By MATT RICHTEL
SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 - To gauge the potential consumer impact of
the consolidation sweeping the telephone industry, look no further
than the silver-toned plastic phone gathering dust on the desk in
Justin Martikovic's studio apartment.
Mr. Martikovic, 30, a junior architect who relies on a cellphone for
his normal calling, says he never uses the desk phone -- but he pays
$360 a year to keep it hooked up.
"I have to pay for a service I'm never using," he said.
He has no choice. His telephone company, SBC Communications, will not
sell him high-speed Internet access unless he buys the phone service,
too. That puts him in the same bind as many people around the country
who want high-speed, or broadband, Internet access but no longer need
a conventional telephone. Right now, their phone companies tend to
have a "take it or leave it" attitude.
Consumers "are not forced to go with SBC," said Michael Coe, a company
spokesman. "If they just want a broadband connection, I'd recommend
they look around for people who can provide just a broadband
The nation's other two largest phone companies, Verizon Communications
and BellSouth, have similar policies: broadband service is available
only as a bundle with phone service.
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: And so it is here in Independence, KS
also. SBC's attitude is "take us as is ... no phone service, then no
high speed internet." The reason that backfired on them around here is
due to services like Cable One, we get high speed internet anyway. To
show you how sleazy SBC has gotten, the latest offer in the US Mail to
get me back now offers monthly service (full service package) for
_$2.95_ per month (that's two dollars, ninety five cents) per month
for one year. It has been said that in long ago times, the Bell tactic
for getting rid of their competitors -- who could not afford such
things -- was if neccessary, *give away their service* until the
competitors gave up and went away. Are they going to start that again
in places like Kansas, where Prairie Stream is fully licensed to do
business state-wide, and gradually getting weaned off of Southwestern
Bell? SBC for a long time was threatening to get rid of UNE-P but its
not at all certain that will work either. So, they fall back on the
old 'give it away until we don't have any competition' routine when
they have to. PAT]