TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: The Day the Bell System Died

Re: The Day the Bell System Died

Tony P. (
Sun, 9 Jan 2005 11:28:30 -0500

In article <>, says:

> At 1/7/2005 09:42 PM, Pat wrote,

>> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Well, readers, why *did* she have
>> to die? It is easy enough to do 'Monday morning quarterbacking'
>> now some 23 years after the fact and examine all the things which
>> went right with divestiture as well as the things which went wrong,
>> but what do YOU think? PAT]

> Divestiture was the high point in telecom history. The old Bell
> System was too powerful, too resistant to progress. It was good at
> one thing -- proving Plain Old Telephone Service to residential
> subscribers at low rates. And it was pretty good at being a steady
> money-earner, paying a good dividend. But as technology was
> advancing, as solid-state electronics was shortening product cycles,
> the Bell System's monopoly ways were impeding progress. By vertically
> integrating everything including manufacturing, it was an island of a
> planned, command economy, a miniature Soviet, here in the United
> States, cleverly masquerading as capitalism.

> Divestiture was the result o f a case brought against Western Electric
> in 1949 and revived, years after the 1956 Final Judgment, over three
> decades later. The original case sought divestiture of Western
> Electric, which would have opened up telecom-equipment manufacturing;
> instead, it was settled by closing off Western Electric from
> participating in competitive markets. The revived case came in an era
> when the "natural monopoly" in long distance had cracked.

> The result of divestiture was a flourishing of competition in long
> distance, as AT&T was no longer able to control the bottlenecks. It
> led to competition in equipment manufacturing, particularly benefiting
> Nortel in the CO space, but also creating an opening for SONET
> (invented by Bellcore right after divestiture) and many competitive
> transmission vendors, who brought down the cost of distance with
> rapidly-improving fiber optics.

All the theory and initial development for SONET was done by Bell
Labs. More importantly the laser was also a Bell Labs project, as
well as the transistor, etc. Mother Bell could have become quite the
giant if she didn't give up the rights to her own research and

They also pioneered the things we take for granted like CLID, etc. I
recall a Bell sponsored book from 1972 that discussed the new services
over a few pages. The title escapes me but they had prototype photos of
the CLID gear, the Trimline prototypes, etc.

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