D.C. NOTES

There are times when RCR staffers stop chasing stories and just sit around to debate the state of telecommunications. When the rumors about a Cable & Wireless takeover of Sprint began surfacing, all we could do is lay back in our pontifical chairs and wonder, “What next?”

Mergers between giant corporations certainly are nothing new, but we’ve been happy to keep them in the realm of airlines, food companies and movie studios. Only during the last few years have telecom companies become part of the big-fish-swallows-the-smaller-fish scenario.

The catchword in all this is American. We’ve watched Bell Atlantic and Nynex merge, and there are other domestic couplings in the works. When AT&T took over McCaw, there was little public outcry. But then things began changing. British Telecom and MCI decided to work in Concert. Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom began Sprint-ing for a U.S. finish line. Most people didn’t know these deals were happening, mostly because it takes years to gain regulatory approval.

Don’t get me wrong-I’m no protectionist. Most of the electronic products in my house are produced off shore, as are many of the art books I own. Going global is common sense, but I am glad that, at least in the near term, there are limits on foreign participation in a U.S. telecom concern; 25 percent does not a majority make.

And speaking of those electronic products, some Americans complain today that few U.S.-made televisions exist, there are no domestic VCRs, most wireless equipment components are made elsewhere and the top-selling cars are imported.

Even if this latest takeover rumor does pan out to be just that, I still hope the FCC, those in Congress who pushed last year’s telecom act and U.S. negotiators of the WTO agreement had no intent to hand over (somewhere down the road and following massive rule changes) our communications industry to a PTT structure that still has problems allowing competition in their own domains. Gives a whole new meaning to “local exchange carrier,” doesn’t it?

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