To my burgeoning library of unpublished letters to the editor, I can add the following, submitted in response to this article.
The USA Today story lamenting that the merger of AT&T with Baby Bell SBC will be a blow for "consumer" interests ("Consumer advocates fear losing AT&T's Voice," Money, March 7) is misbegotten. Instead of focusing on the "who is up, who is down" game of Washington insiders, Leslie Cauley should note the vibrant array of choices and technologies brought by the free market - voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), wireless broadband, high speed fiber optics to the home. Regulators and self-appointed "consumer advocates" aren't making this happen; markets are.
The fact is technology and innovation has driven competition and benefits to consumers, not Washington regulatory fights. It is no coincidence that the two most competitive sectors in communications - wireless telephony and the Internet - are also the least regulated. The fights between AT&T and MCI on one side and the Baby Bells Verizon, SBC, BellSouth and Qwest, on the other, did not benefit consumers so much as delay innovation and investment.
Nearly ten years of regulatory wrangling will finally be at an end when the merger happens. This will be good for consumers. Instead of fighting for regulators' favors, communications firms - be they cable, wireless or traditional wireline telephone - will have to fight for consumers' favor in the marketplace. That marketplace is much better at sorting out which companies offer better services at better prices. Consumers should celebrate the passing of AT&T as a natural event in a competitive, dynamic marketplace that will bring them once unimagined ways to communicate.
President, The Progress & Freedom Foundation