TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Last Laugh! Western Union's Comment About Useless Phones

Re: Last Laugh! Western Union's Comment About Useless Phones

Joe Morris (
Thu, 7 Jul 2005 12:38:58 UTC writes:

> If the Bell System still existed as a monopoly provider today, I
> wonder how they'd deal with the above described customer frustrations.
> The Bell System did not like it when their product/service was made to
> look bad and spent money and efforts to counteract it.

The Bell system breakup [*] certainly caused problems, but the
pre-breakup system was not what I would call accommodating to users'
requirements ... it was instead a follower of Henry Ford's famous line
that his customers could have any color automobile they wanted as long
as it was black.

Case in point -- and one that gave me lots of heartburn at the time --
was the absurd DAA requirement. I'm all for protecting a network, but
neither at the time nor in retrospect can I find any justification for
the DAA other than protecting AT&T's revenue stream.

Joe Morris

[*] seen on a button distributed by Computerworld magazine at
a meeting: "Judge Green is a Bell buster"

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: No one, it seems, had their hands
totally clean in the Bell divestiture. Far from being a 'visionary'
whose sole motive was for the good of the American people -- which is
the _only thing_ Judge Harold Green had any legitimate right thinking
about in his deliberations -- it is claimed that early on, during the
mid 1970's when the trial was first being thought about, Harold had
attempted to use a payphone on a street corner in Washington, DC only
to lose his ten cents in an out of order instrument, and as he stood
there in that busted up, grafitti-filled, smelling-of-urine-
and-whiskey, pay phone booth on a hot, sultry afternoon, trying to get
his ten cents back _or_ get an operator's attention and sympathy (he
wound up getting neither; apparently the operator sassed him, but what
else is new?), Harold decided then and there that the company should
be dismantled. We know for a fact that Harold had been approached by
some friends in the Justice Department as a judge who would likely be
sympathetic to their cause (the breakup of Bell) so apparently that
incident with the broken down pay phone only fueled his animosity
which was quite apparent during much of the trial.

How much animosity? The most obvious was his refusal to allow AT&T
to have a jury trial, as they initially requested. I am not at all
certain had there been a jury, that divestiture would have been
ordered. Maybe, maybe not. Harold's rationale was the matter was
'too complex' for a jury, it would have (and did) lasted far too
long to find a willing and competent jury, and anyway, the prosecutors
did not want a jury. If AT&T had used the 'IBM Technique' as IBM
successfully did in _their_ divestiture trial, chances are likely the
matter would still be going on, now 22 years later. For those who do
not recall, the 'IBM Technique' was to blitz the court with so much
paper in its defense [quite literally, IBM made hundreds of copies
of each paper record presented in their successful defense; there were
times when semi-trailer-truck vans full of legal documents to be read
would pull up at the court's loading dock/receiving room to drop off
the material the court and prosecutors had to read and act on] as
part of the trial. I mean, imagine a thousand page document full of
dry statistics in IBM's defense; here is the six hundred copies of
same the prosecutorial team gets; plus copies for each employee of
the court clerk's office, the judge, etc. IBM, in its successful
defense insisted that in order to 'fully understand' how much
divestiture would 'harm the company' one had to see the 'big picture'
which IBM was more than pleased to present in its defense. (wink!)

Can you imagine if AT&T had insisted on that sort of 'paper blitz'
with Harold and if they had gotten their way with a jury trial and
each member of the jury (but of course) had to carefully examine all
the 'evidence' before reaching their decision? It worked perfectly
well in IBM's trial. I suspect Harold would have preferred to take
the check for ten cents refund the telephone company would have sent
him (telco had long since discontinued the practice of sending out
a few coins scotch-taped to a form letter of apology through the mail)
as they did for more than a half-century, or allowing the operators
to liberally issue verbal 'credit' for calls via the phone itself,
also an ancient practice of about half-century. PAT]

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