The Bell No Longer Tolls

I joined the residential marketing group at AT&T in 1978 because my Director convinced me that €œthe Biggest Company on Earth€ was going to become a marketing driven company. I was young and na¯ve then, and I should have paid attention to President Charles Brown who said in a Times interview that changing AT&T€™s culture was like turning around the Queen Mary.

I tell people today I worked for AT&T when it was the Bell System (www.BellSystemMemorial.com). The corporation had $125 billion in assets and over a million employees who worked at Bell Labs, Western Electric, Long Lines and 22 Bell telephone companies. One of those was Southwestern Bell Corporation whose successor has now bought AT&T.

AT&T wasn€™t perfect before it was forced into divestiture in 1984, but the public switched telephone network worked exceedingly well. The company was driven by a philosophy of providing outstanding service, and every manager at every level was held accountable. The monopoly the government granted Theodore Vail and Walter Gifford in return for providing everyone universal local service was mostly benevolent. The Bell System reflected a simpler time in our society.

Today the communication company must meet the changing needs of consumers who want multiple forms of audio/video simultaneously. AT&T wasn€™t up to the task anymore than Western Union was.

The question for the local media corner of the world is whether SBC will help pay for AT&T by selling off its SBCDO assets.

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