Telecom Changes

Uh oh.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the FCC has approved the merger of Bellsouth and AT&T:

The Federal Communications Commission approved AT&T Inc.’s $85 billion takeover of BellSouth Corp. Friday, after the telecom giant offered a series of major concessions to consumer groups and regulators.

The agency approved the deal, the largest ever in U.S. telecommunications history, by a unanimous 4-0 vote. The merger creates a behemoth that will have a market capitalization of over $220 billion — more than double that of nearest rival Verizon Communications Inc. — and will serve 67.5 million local phone customers in 22 states, as well as 11.5 million broadband users.

The FCC released a statement saying that “significant public interest benefits are likely to result from this transaction.”

Approval of the deal was never in serious doubt, but it was held up for months because of objections from consumer groups and Democrats.

AT&T broke the logjam by proposing a series of conditions this week that won over the Democrats, including a pledge not to prioritize any Internet content provider’s traffic over another’s, a principle known as “net neutrality.” Lawmakers, consumer activists and some Internet companies said that without such regulation, AT&T would be able to strike deals guaranteeing Internet companies like Google Inc. higher quality or faster transmissions than other providers. (Read AT&T’s filing.)

The net neutrality condition applies to the portion of AT&T’s network that connects consumers’ homes to the Internet backbone. Special data and voice networks used by corporate customers would not be subject to the rules and AT&T’s own nascent video offerings would also be exempted.

AT&T also agreed to lower rates for some high-volume voice and data lines that serve corporate customers and are leased on a wholesale basis to smaller telecom carriers. And it pledged to offer stand-alone high-speed Internet access for up to $20 a month. Companies that offer Internet phone service, like Vonage Holdings Corp., would stand to gain if consumers don’t have to buy their phone service and Internet service in a packaged bundle.

Hmmm.  We’ve been considering switching over to an IP phone service for some time now, but haven’t done so because we 1) don’t like Comcast internet service, and 2) anything else without phone service bundled costs more than phone+DSL.

The next question is, does AT&T offer wireless phone service that’s worth a flip, and if bundled with high-speed internet, do they offer it at a decent rate?

I’m still not very happy with US Cellular, but am waiting out the contract for another couple of months.  However, I’ve yet to find anyone who thinks their cell company provides good customer service.

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