AT&T: No local phone monopolies

Chairman C. Michael Armstrong lashes out against local phone monopolies and calls for a halt to mergers that dominate local access.

NEW YORK--In a keynote address at Internet world this morning, AT&T chairman C. Michael Armstrong lashed out against local phone monopolies and called for a halt to mergers among the former Ma Bell subsidiaries that dominate local access.

"Monopoly access charges will kill the introduction of new services such as voice over IP. Monopoly control stifles innovation," Armstrong said. "Local Bell mergers should be denied, the local phone market opened to competition, and excess access charges removed." He contended that excessive local fees, which he called a hidden tax, cost U.S. businesses and consumers $10 billion a year.

"For AT&T, it's IP," Armstrong said, referring to the Internet protocol standards on which the Net is built. "Today it is central to our business, our mission, and our vision. We are making a multibillion-dollar bet on Internet technology."

Armstrong also hyped AT&T's pending $48 billion acquisition of cable TV operator TeleCommunications Incorporated and Ma Bell's agreement with British Telcom to build out the global IP infrastructure.

"At AT&T, our goal is to become the leader in providing communications over the Internet," he declared. "The local monopolies are a threat to this network economy. We don't need new laws, just the political will to get it done."