Scary Splice

A new round of mergers reflects big phone companies' fears of competition. But it's coming anyway, through the Internet, bringing lower rates for callers

Perhaps you saw Ivan Seidenberg back in the 1960s when he got his start working for New York Telephone. Those were the good old days of telecommunications, when "phone company" and "AT&T;" were synonyms. Interstate calls cost a small fortune. Copper wires, pioneered by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, were still state of the art. And Seidenberg was the guy you might have spotted crawling into manholes in New York City and cheerfully splicing phone lines together deep underground--peeling back the rubber coating on the finger-thick wires, laying the cable on the splicer and then gently pressing the copper wires together....

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