Ma Bell is almost back together again – what changes?

* AT&T and BellSouth: Will the circle be unbroken?

With the FCC having cleared the regulatory passageway for the AT&T and BellSouth merger, we’re even closer to having Ma Bell put back together again. And for those of us who were around in 1984, it brings back bittersweet memories of the old days. For that reason, we’d like to reminisce a bit in this newsletter and ask for your conjecture of what might be to come.

In particular, on Jan. 1, 1984, Steve was working in operations for the University of North Carolina system. At that point, modems and, if really aggressive, statistical multiplexers, were pretty much the state-of-the-art. And these were usually connected via leased “3002” voice-grade point-to-point lines.

There were some of the member institutions for the network who preferred to be more aggressive than others when it came to owning and operating their own equipment. For instance, even though the networking system was advocating purchasing your own modems (at a minimum), some institutions still leased the modems so they could have everything from “the phone company.”

Consequently, it was a rude awakening for some institutions. In the most extreme case, “the phone company” immediately became five companies with which we had to deal. As it turns out, the Research Triangle Park was in (at that time) GTE territory. And the institutions in Charlotte were in Southern Bell territory. So “the phone company” became:

1) The part of Southern Bell/AT&T that supplied the remote modem.

2) Southern Bell as the local carrier in Charlotte.

3) AT&T from Charlotte to the Research Triangle Park.

4) GTE as the local carrier in Research Triangle Park.

5) The part of GTE/AT&T that supplied the RTP modem.

Progress for users? We hardly saw it as that at the time. Especially when it came to troubleshooting. But that’s a story that we’ll continue for the next time.

In the meantime, please be thinking about your own “war stories” and the impact on how networking has evolved over the past 23 years.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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