Not Your Father's Phone Company

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON D.C.: The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to implement new regulations for the $100 billion local telephone business. The ruling fills some blanks in the original passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and will open up the lucrative market to competition from long distance, cellular and cable companies. It may take a while for concerns like AT&T, Sprint and MCI to actually enter the market; some experts say consumers will wait as long as five years for to see cheaper phone bills. And TIME's Philip Elmer-DeWitt says the bill might not work as planned. "Saying that you're going to open up an area which used to be a monopoly is easy, but this is really a case where God is in the details." Long distance companies, for example, will still have to pay local phone companies for access to their lines. Phone service itself, for that matter, may soon be something quite different, as developments in the computer industry, cable and cellular technologies increasingly drive the growth of the telecom industry. (Old copper wire can carry limited bandwidth, and the new technologies demand the larger capacity of cable or cellular networks.) The question is whether Cable or cellular technology will someday dominate all phone service, which may well be shaped not by your call to grandma but by your e-mail via the internet to her. -->