Reply to post: Re: need for speed

Just how rigged is America's broadband world? A deep dive into one US city reveals all


Re: need for speed

I lived through the Bell/AT&T break-up and the introduction of the Internet (first) and then widespread cellular service (second) in the US. If AT&T/Bell had been run as a semi-government corporation like the US Postal Service, the introduction of the Internet and cellular service would have been considerably slower. The breakup of AT&T lead to a dramatic reduction in telephone costs, especially long distance telephone costs, in the US, but in no way slowed down the introduction of Internet services.

AT&T had no clue about the Internet, and their moribund internal processes would have crept along ever so slowly. They had already spurned the idea of packet-based networks when the DoD first came calling with the ARPAnet. The Internet initially flourished because the only thing "the telephone company" needed to provide for subscriber connections was a voice-service telephone line, which practically every household already had (thanks to Universal Service mandates from the government) and which ISPs were able to request installation of en masse. Thousands of independent ISPs using dial-up modems met the need for last mile Internet connectivity; they rapidly broke out on every street corner it seemed once the "no commercial traffic" prohibition for the Internet backbone was laid to rest.

The RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies, aka Baby Bells [what the local services part of AT&T were broken up into]) that provided local telephone service after the break-up only got into the Internet act when they saw there was an almost insatiable demand for connectivity and speed. They began buying up the little independent ISPs, and they developed digital subscriber line services that could be laid on top of the existing copper for voice services (DSL provided the "always on" Internet *and* allowed for simultaneous voice service as well). Cable companies started getting involved then as well, first with rather painful attempts to make their "barely functioning for one-way video cable plants" work with two way digital data, then upgrading their plants to provide better and better digital services. Eventually the battlefield in many areas had only two major combatants; the telephone company and the cable company. Oh, yeah... satellite providers tried to get their foot in the door, but the round-trip latency was (and is) a deal-killer for many folks.

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