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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

August, 2005

 

SBC Answers Coastal Post: AT&T; Merger Will Be Good For Bolinas
By Will Rigney

SBC area manager of external affairs
What's been the most dramatic change in the world over the past two decades? It has to be the ability for anyone to communicate globally.
Today, a home-based business in Bolinas can serve clients from Beijing to Berlin. The power of the Internet - along with other telecommunications breakthroughs such as affordable wireless service - means that people can connect in ways unimaginable just a few years ago.
Now telecommunications providers are frantically restructuring to meet the challenge of convergence, with a variety of competitors offering bundles of services such as broadband and Internet technology, wireless services and traditional local and long-distance landline calling.
Companies are also combining consumer and business services in order to provide a full-service offering to reach customers not only nationally but around the globe.
SBC Communications Inc., for example, has invested $6 billion to deliver high-speed broadband nationally, making DSL service available to about 90 percent of customer locations in California. This service is also now more affordable, with rates as low as $14.95 per month for new customers who sign up for SBC Yahoo! DSL over the Internet. That's lower than the price of some dial-up Internet services.
SBC has also invested heavily in wireless, teaming with Bell South to create Cingular Wireless, which acquired AT&T; Wireless last year. Cingular is now moving ahead with plans to deploy its wireless broadband, or 3G Network, and is launching its Universal Mobile Telephone Service with high-speed downlink access in 15 to 20 markets this year.
To compete more broadly in the business market, SBC earlier this year announced plans to merge with AT&T.; The merger is currently under regulatory review at the federal level and in California.
The combination of AT&T; with SBC will create the prototype communications company for the 21st century.
It's a big step forward to business and consumers everywhere, from small towns to global capitals. It's a match of two companies with highly complementary strengths and skills, with each filling a need for the other.
The combination also will enable SBC to capitalize on AT&T;'s Internet Protocol or IP network, to compete for consumer business around the nation, not just in our states.
Rapid approval of the merger will spur innovation and expedite the delivery of advanced telecommunications services to consumers and businesses. The California Public Utilities Commission this month is conducting a series of public hearings as part of a review expected to culminate in November. The hearings were widely publicized, with all SBC customers receiving an invitation to attend, as well as advertisements placed to reach the public at large.
SBC also is gearing up efforts to compete against cable companies in providing video services, investing $4 billion in its Project Lightspeed to upgrade its wireline network to provide the next generation of services such as super-fast broadband and video on demand.
Cable companies are trying to slow-roll this new technology by saddling phone companies with rules intended for a monopoly cable business, such as franchise agreements that only lengthen the wait for consumers anxious for full choice and better value when it comes to video.
But cable providers could stand a dose of the competition that telecommunications customers have enjoyed. During the past five years, cut-throat competition has helped drive average phone bills down more than 25 percent in California.
Have you seen any decline in your cable TV bill? I didn't think so.
California is at the center of technological changes that are profoundly affecting the telecommunications business. So a communications company for the 21st century will have to be a leader in three areas: broadband and Internet technology; wireless services; and in serving customers, especially large business customers, nationally and around the world.
The combined forces of SBC and AT&T; will better be able to make the investments in the services that Californians - from Bolinas to Burbank - want and need.

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