Oh, Ma, where art thou?

AT&T looks again to cable as its savior.

Ma Bell today struck deals with all the big name cable conglomerates in hopes of dealing its CallVantage VoIP (voice over IP) service to broadband customers. The company is pinning its hopes on broadband as a last-ditch effort to say in its bread-and-butter voice services business.

I can't help noticing the irony in this. AT&T under C. Michael Armstrong went on a cable acquisition spree during the boom years, sweeping up TCI and then MediaOne to become the largest cable provider. Armstrong went for broke, and in retrospect he had the right idea, but ate crow because of terrible timing. As we all know, AT&T sold its cable business to Comcast, which runs a tight, disciplined ship.

Maybe it's unfair to speculate what would have happened if the market didn't tank and investors didn't pressure AT&T to break up. I wonder if AT&T would be viewing VoIP as its savior if it held out longer on its cable franchises.

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