Telecom mergers are like washers and dryers

Telecom mergers are like washers and dryers

The Department of Justice last week gave its official blessing to the AT&T/BellSouth merger, which leaves only the FCC to act on the deal and only qualifies as news if you believed for an instant that any other outcome had a snowball's chance.

Of course, the AT&T/BellSouth merger was preordained to survive the "rigors" of regulatory inspection . . . we're all grownups here.

But that doesn't mean we have to swallow this corporate, uh, stuff dished out by BellSouth in one of those quickie press statements:

Subject line: BellSouth Responds to Department of Justice [having said] "merger would likely result in cost savings and other efficiencies that should benefit consumers."

"This merger will create a communications industry leader capable of providing customers across the BellSouth region with the latest in wireline, wireless, broadband and video technologies and innovation."

It's all about the customer, you see, just like the DoJ says. Of course, the DoJ says it's so because the law says it must be so for the DoJ to break out the rubber stamp. (Never mind those stockholders and corporate execs greedily wringing their hands over there in the corner.)

The circularity of this "consumer benefit" charade can be seen in the DoJ's assessment of another merger this summer, the one between household appliance heavyweights Whirlpool and Maytag.

"The parties substantiated large cost savings and other efficiencies that should benefit consumers," the DoJ said of that deal, with nary a mention of what it might mean for The Maytag Repairman (rest in peace, Gordon Jump).

Now I haven't bought a washer or dryer in awhile, so I can't vouch for whether that Whirlpool/Maytag union has turned out to be the boon for consumers that the DoJ promised. I presume there are trickle-down economics to play out.

However, I do need a new central air-conditioning system to replace the one that just gave up the ghost. This might not be a natural fit, but I'm thinking I might save a bundle if only AT&T can stop collecting carriers and instead buy Carrier.

Will Uncle Sam's gambling police arrest Massachusetts?

Sometimes you just have to laugh. At the same time the federal government is making political prisoners out of Internet gambling executives who operate their businesses in other countries, the state-run gambling cartel here in Massachusetts is charging ahead with a major network transition . . . to IP?

Says so right here in this Verizon Business press release:

"Verizon Business announced today it has begun work with the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission to upgrade its data communications network. Under a multimillion-dollar contract, Verizon Business will transition the Lottery's network from the current private-line digital data system (DDS) connecting 8,300 sales terminals to an Internet Protocol (IP) over frame-relay network. The upgraded network will provide the capability for IP conversion, encryption and simplified network management while allowing for future upgrades to IP-enabled, retail terminals that will lead the way for new games."

Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines of that little bit of marketing braggadocio, but one could begin to wonder whether it might not be too long before I'm playing my favorite state-sanctioned Lottery games in the comfort of my home office.Oh, I'd bet good money that would curl the whiskers on Uncle Sam's mug.

Here's what the Massachusetts Lottery Commission's Web site says on the subject: "The Massachusetts State Lottery adheres to the federal law, the Wire Communications Act of 1961, which prohibits the use of wire communication facilities (telephone lines) for interstate or foreign gambling purposes. The use of telephone wires in Internet transmission is defined under that law and therefore it is unlawful for the Lottery to offer its games for sale on-line."

And, of course, Massachusetts is one of those states whose legislature has fought to keep its residents' recreational dollars driving over the border every day, a fact that should have the taxpayers of Connecticut writing us regular thank-you notes.

You see, we just don't cotton to gamblin' in these parts.

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