Published in the Asbury Park Press 09/4/05
BY MURRAY SABRIN
The conventional wisdom about a business merger, especially when it
leads to a near monopolistic control of a market, is that it is
anti-competitive and thus should be disallowed by government
The proposed merger between Verizon and MCI is being opposed by
consumer advocates and others because the new company would provide
more than 80 percent of the wired phone connections in its regional
market. According to the conventional wisdom, a Verizon-MCI alliance
would be an example of a "monopolistic" company that will drive up
prices and stifle competition in the telecommunications market.
On the face of it, opponents of the Verizon-MCI merger may have had a
strong case if the world of telecommunications today looked like it
did prior to the 1984 breakup of AT&T. Pre-1984, AT&T did have a 100
percent telephone monopoly in most regions of the country. AT&T also
was the nation's only long-distance phone carrier at the
time. However, after the Justice Department ordered the AT&T breakup,
the regional Baby Bells, as they were called, became regional phone
AT&T became a long-distance carrier and began to face competition from
Sprint and MCI. Since the 1980s, virtually all the original seven Baby
Bells have merged with one another and other phone companies. The
remaining regional entities are SBC, Verizon, Bell South and Qwest, a
non-Baby Bell that merged with US West.
Currently, SBC is seeking regulatory approval to merge with AT&T,
while Verizon is seeking to merge with MCI. Opponents of the
Verizon-MCI merger assert that consumers will pay higher prices than
they ought to because the new firm will have a near monopoly in its
"Nonsense", respond the proponents of the Verizon-MCI merger. At
the local level, telephone calling prices may be on the verge of an
historical downward adjustment because of the latest technological
developments. The telecommunications world of the 1980s and even 1990s is
Cell phones, once a bulky, weighty and expensive piece of hardware
that cost users about $1 a minute for service, has been replaced by
units that fit in the palm of your hand and cost less than
$50. Competition has driven the price of cell phone calls to about a
penny a minute. In addition, more than a third of local phone calls
and more than 60 percent of long-distance calls are made on wireless
networks. In short, consumers are giving up their land lines, the ones
provided by the Baby Bells, such as Verizon.
Meanwhile, cable companies are not your parents' or grandparents'
cable company any more. They are providing not only clear reception,
on demand video services and premium channels, but they also are in
the telecommunications business, competing with the phone companies.
Cable companies provide Internet access as well as phone service. VoIP
(Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology has revolutionized the
telecommunications industry. Consumers can now send and receive voice,
video and data through their computer without the use of a telephone.
To state that telecommunications is changing rapidly is an
understatement, if there ever was one. Technological breakthroughs are
working their way from the laboratory to the marketplace in
record-breaking speed. Companies cannot rely on their brand names or
traditional infrastructure to meet the needs of consumers. Cable
companies, wireless firms and phone companies are in one of the most
competitive environments we have witnessed in our history.
If firms like Verizon and MCI believe their strategic goals and
competitive advantages can be met by becoming one entity, then
shareholders should make that determination, not regulators. The
intense domestic and global competitive forces will cause
telecommunications companies, especially the remaining Baby Bells, to
provide consumers with high-quality and lower priced services - or
The name of the game is market share and utilizing the latest
technological innovations that drive prices down. If a company, no
matter how large its market share, does not embrace new technologies
or meet its customers' needs, there are more than enough competitors
for consumers to choose from.
Opponents of the proposed Verizon-MCI merger are "fighting the last
war" -- preventing two merged companies from having more than 80
percent market share of a diminishing market. As long as a combined
Verizon-MCI delivers services that its customers approve, then the
marketplace will have spoken. Otherwise, Verizon-MCI's competitors,
cable companies, wireless companies and unbeknownst firms in the
future will be more than happy to sign up its customers.
Murray Sabrin is professor of finance in the School of Business
at Ramapo College of New Jersey, Mahwah.
Copyright 2005 Asbury Park Press.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
*** FAIR USE NOTICE. This message contains copyrighted material the
use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright
owner. This Internet discussion group is making it available without
profit to group members who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information in their efforts to advance the
understanding of literary, educational, political, and economic
issues, for non-profit research and educational purposes only. I
believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material
as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish
to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go
beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright
owner, in this instance, Asbury Park Press.
For more information go to: