Wrong Number: The Breakup of AT&T

Alan Stone, Author Basic Books $21.95 (381p) ISBN 978-0-465-09277-2
On the last day of 1983, the world's largest corporation, the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., was dismembered by federal court order, profoundly changing the U.S. telecommunications industry. Stone, professor of political science at the University of Houston, presents a comprehensive history and analysis of the growth and eventual dissolution of the Bell System. He argues that the giant AT&T as a highly regulated entity admirably fulfilled the goals of public service, agreeing with former AT&T chairman John de Butts's view that Bell provided ``the widest availability of high quality communications services at the lowest cost to the entire public.'' Stone details AT&T's losing battles in hearings before the Federal Communications Commission against competitors like MCI and IBM. FCC rulings slowly eroded AT&T's customer base, but the fatal blow was the Justice Department's antitrust suit against the company. Stone contends that the FCC and the federal courts wrongly abandoned the old public service standards in favor of the inappropriate economic rationales of deregulation and competition. He makes a good case against the haphazard and capricious way in which AT&T's divestiture came to pass. Although this history is thorough, Stone's rejection of economic analysis is too sweeping, since U.S. telephone service remains largely universal and cheap. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
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