Ars takes a look at how a the Bell System, effectively a monopoly on phone service, thrived without interference for most of the 20th century until being broken up in the 1980s.
Now that the resurgent AT&T may (or may not) be buying Sprint the AT&T of old may be reemerging. Will the government tolerate a second telecommunications monopoly? Keep in mind that the Bell System promised and for the most part delivered universal service. Everything just worked and when you had a problem, there was no hemming and hawing and “we’re not responsible for the wiring in your house”, they fixed it. But today’s universal service is really “4G LTE for smartphones” so I’m not so sure they’ll get away with it (and the possible blocking of the Sprint merger makes me believe that even more).
[Disclaimer] My dad spent his entire working life at Western Electric, the maintenance and supply division of AT&T. The famous Bell Labs was actually part of Western Electric, in case you’re keeping score at home.
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