Friday, September 2, 2011
A Brief History of AT&T That's Very Much Worth Your Time
How AT&T conquered the 20th century, by Matthew Lasar (and here). (Ars Technica, 9/1/2011)
Excerpt: As the reconstituted AT&T makes its bid to buy T-Mobile, another interesting question presents itself. Why did the United States of America, supposedly the land of free market competition, accept the near total dominance of AT&T over telephone service for about 60 years? Historians have been debating this question for almost as long. They often disagree on the answers.
But if you accept their observations and arguments as mostly compatible pieces of a larger story, what stands out is a corporation that, at crucial moments, did just about everything right. In the early 20th century, the Bell system got there before its competitors. It learned how to fight or game the emergent regulatory system better than its rivals. AT&T publicly framed its purposes better than its critics. It used advertising not just to promote itself, but to sanctify its mission. And the corporation mastered the art of backing away from its darker ambitions at strategic public moments.