Today, we'll share our perspective on the proposed merger between AT&T and BellSouth.First, we believe that AT&T and the "legacy" SBC (which acquired AT&T) were much farther along the path of offering business and residential IP telephony than BellSouth. While it is true that business customers in BellSouth's territory could always buy from AT&T's IP portfolio, by providing a single point of contact (and single management of local loop facilities) customers will eventually reap the benefits.Second, the new AT&T is a leader and an aggressive competitor in providing wireline broadband services. The "old" SBC in particular has been a leader in offering competitively priced broadband, and we expect it will continue this leadership if a merger is approved.Third, AT&T's recent announcements and direction to offer "three-screen" bundles that combine wireline and wireless services is innovative and will prove increasingly important to businesses as the enterprises rely more and more on enterprise mobility. We concur with the companies' statement that the merger will "streamline the ownership and operations of Cingular Wireless" which is jointly owned by AT&T and BellSouth.Fourth, SBC's Project Lightspeed will port easily to the BellSouth network infrastructure, and the combined companies will be able to more quickly deploy IP TV to consumers in the combined footprint than if BellSouth had to "go it alone." Lightspeed will also strengthen the infrastructure and reach of broadband services to the small and midsize business market with increased DSL access speeds.Fifth, we believe working with a nationwide provider that offers local service also benefits the companies that have "out-of-region" locations. Of course, we're not recommending that AT&T acquire Verizon just to offer this benefit to the Fortune 500 customers in the BellSouth region. But giving customers "direct" access to the AT&T IP and Internet backbone network does have its advantages. And for companies with international locations, this offers even greater "ease of use" given AT&T's international presence.And sixth, while some would suggest that AT&T is now left only with major competition from the cable companies and with minor competition from competitive local exchange carriers (CLEC), we believe that this competition will likely keep AT&T "honest." But more importantly, for AT&T to remain competitive, it will need more than the local loop in BellSouth's territory.We contend that the next big wave of competition isn't going to come from who controls the local loop, but over who can provide superior applications and content over broadband connections. And we think there's going to plenty of competition for network-provided applications and content, no matter who controls the last mile. After all, which are willing to pay the most for - the water or the pipeline?We'd like to hear what you think about the deal. Rather than sending individual e-mails to Larry and Steve, we'd like to ask you to join the discussion that has begun in the WAN newsletter by adding your comments here. But please e-mail Steve if you would like to add a new thread to this discussion.* Editor's note: For ongoing coverage plus additional analysis and commentary of the AT&T\/BellSouth deal, check out NetworkWorld.com.