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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2005
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EDITORIAL

BellSouth no longer telephone monopoly

Fifteen years ago, all local and long-distance calls across the United States came through telephone lines. Five years later, the percentage shrank to 97 percent and continues in a downward spiral.

This year, 49 percent of those calls are coming via wireless or broadband.

BellSouth projects that in another five years some 71 percent of those calls won't come in the traditional, old-fashioned way.

That's one of the reasons BellSouth is pushing hard to get out from under some Public Service Commission oversight. The company that once held a monopoly on telephone service in Alabama now has major competition from so many directions its officials say it needs the freedom other companies have to survive.

With cable companies now having 60 percent of all broadband households in BellSouth's region, and the trend set to continue, perhaps we should no longer think of the phone company as a monopoly.

The Legislature and the PSC have revived rhetoric that reaches back several decades to when politicians owed their public office to how well they castigated the phone company and Alabama Power Co.

Allowing BellSouth to begin offering long-distance service about three years ago hasn't driven any competitors out of business. Taking some of the regulations off BellSouth won't either.

But it is good politics to beat up on a big utility company.

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