Jesters Lords of the Bells
And so it began - A tongue in cheek look at the telecom debate

By The Washington Bureau for ISP Advocacy

     Once upon a time there was a very wise ruler who heeded the counsel of his advisors. In his Kingdom there was a very powerful feudal lord, Lord AT&T, who sported a fancy coat of arms recognized around the world. Lord AT&T was so powerful that he possessed the power of communications for all the land, and this was called a monopoly.

     A ruling was ordered by the Ruler's Court of Supreme Advisors that Lord AT&T must divest his holdings and share them among other feudal lords. And so, Lord Ameritech, Lord Bell South, Lord NYNEX, Lord Bell Atlantic, Lord Pacific Bell, Lord Southwestern Bell and Lord US West were bestowed with riches beyond the dreams of avarice. They came to be called the Lords of the Baby Bells.

     And the people and the Ruler saw that divestiture was good. The Ruler believed that communications should serve all the people and the Lords of the Baby Bells could be entrusted with protecting and ensuring the peoples' rights to communications.

     But as history shows , and Lords are wont to do, squabbling ensued among them and squabbling led to battles of proxies, and new, more powerful Lords took their place. Lord Verizon captured NYNEX, Bell Atlantic and GTE. Lord Qwest captured US West. Lord SBC captured Southwestern Bell , Ameritech and Pacific Bell. But Lord Bell South arrogantly stood alone.

     With their new freedom to communicate, the people were happy and found clever and skillful ways to use communications to share knowledge and create businesses. At first, the communication was slow, and it was called dialup. But the people persevered and found a faster way to communicate and it was called DSL.

     The Bell Lords scoffed at the people's innovation and declared their pursuits to be frivolous, of little value and a waste of time. And so, they ignored the people while the people's innovations continued to multiply. A wise advisor to the Ruler saw the innovations and pronounced them good and said we must protect these innovations.

     In the year of 1996, The Duke of Earl Comstock, in service to the Ruler and the people, helped to write new laws to protect the people's communications.

     A New Act was declared to tell the Lords of the Bells that sharing was good and must be protected, so the world would prosper by sharing line access. The intention of the Act was deregulation and promotion of competition. The Act removed barriers which had previously prevented telecoms from competing head-to-head and thus the Act fostered competition.

     And the Ruler was happy to see his lands and people prosper through innovation and competition. He was so pleased, he dispatched his foreign emissaries to lands far away to advise others that sharing was good and they must do the same if they would like to work with people across his lands. And this was called NAFTA.

     The Bell Lords saw the success of the people through competition and did not like it, and said amongst themselves that competition was bad. But first, the Bells had to trick the people into thinking they believed in competition, for otherwise the people would see their greed and oppose them. So they dispatched their minions to do their bidding to the Kingdom on The Hill, bearing gifts of gold, food and empty promises.

     A new Ruler, with a good heart came to rule the kingdom, and he did not want any of the people of his lands left behind in a digital divide. The Lords of the Bells saw his goodness and tricked the Ruler. They convinced the Ruler that they could fill his wishes and bring the gift of communications to all the land.

     The Lords of the Bells promised even faster communications with a new technology called Fiber or FiOS. But they threatened to hold back this promising technology and said they would not deploy the Fiber throughout the kingdom unless the Ruler agreed to give them complete control of all the Fiber laid across the land. What could the Ruler do? He wanted to share this faster technology with all the people, so he conceded to their demands.

     But the Lords of the Bells had a clever trick up their sleeves that no one knew. First, they would conquer the prime areas of land served by DSL. They would then capture people on fiber by convincing them that fiber was better. But as soon as fiber was connected, they would cut their lines of copper, leaving them with no escape. Even if it hurt other nobles who provided security for the people over the lines of copper, like Brinks and ADT, the Lords of the Bells did not care. And they did not share the secret of the weakness of Fiber, that danger laid if a storm rumbled across the land and took away electricity, leaving battery access for only four hours.

     What could the Ruler do? He made promises to the Lords of the Bells that they could own the world of fiber. And now they were emboldened in their greed and could taste victory in wiping out the providers of service and innovation.

     And the mayors far across the lands of the kingdom wanted to bring the knowledge of the providers of service to the people they serve. And so the mayors asked the Lords of the Bells to pave routes of high-speed communications across their lands. The mayors reasoned that if the Lords of the Bells refused, they would find their own way to access the providers of service.

     But the Lords of the Bells said we own the lines of communications and we will dispatch the lines if we deem your people worthy. Even if we deem your people unworthy, you may not install your own lines. Ours will be the rule of the land.

     The mayors despaired and were drawn into battle with the Lords of the Bells who called upon the advisors to the Ruler to do their bidding and write laws that would prohibit the mayors from bringing the providers of service to their own lands.

     The Lords of the Bells again dispatched their minions and jesters to do their bidding and find others to tell tales about the people who shared the service of providers. They told tall tales that the providers of service were leeches living off the bounty of the Lords of the Bells and offered no value to others. They maligned the truth that the providers of service were clever pioneers who taught others of the bounty of the secret of the path and also paid a hefty fee, levy and taxes for access to share the lines of The Bells.

     The Lords of the Bells boasted in confident bravado that they knew what was best for the kingdom. They scoffed at the idea of competition and using a trick of smoke and mirrors were able to convince the Ruler's advisors that a few Baby Bells were plenty of competition. They pressed great gifts of gold into the hands of their jesters, like USTA and USTELECOM, to tell tall tails and twist the words of truth in public messages and in television commercials.

     The Lords of the Bells would stop at nothing to win back control over the communications of the kingdom. The Ruler's advisors did not understand or see that their schemes would cost thousands of jobs and all technology innovation yet to be imagined.

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