The Return of Ma Bell

2005 was a big year for the telecommunications industry – a year in which the number of competing players got smaller. Over the past year, SBC purchased AT&T, changing AT&T’s iconic logo in the process, and Verizon acquired MCI to form Verizon Business. Wireless carriers got involved, too: Sprint purchased NEXTEL, and in October 2004, Cingular (a joint endeavor of BellSouth and SBC) completed their purchase of AT&T Wireless.

The irony about all these mergers is that the United States is only a couple of mergers away from seeing the “Ma Bell” of most of the 20th century reappear. The Justice Department settlement of 1984 broke AT&T up into eight Regional Bell Operating Companies, under the expectation that the new competition would lead to increased customer choice and cheaper phone bills. Since then, the number of players has narrowed significantly due to mergers. Today, of the eight “Baby Bells,” only one, BellSouth, has not merged back into a larger company.

Despite the mergers, we’re fortunate to have a little more choice than we originally did. In addition to a variety of smaller, more independent phone companies (including Hawai’i’s own Hawaiian Telcom), cable companies are starting to offer data and voice transmission services. Even Google is getting involved, to an extent – they are purchasing unused “dark fiber” that can connect their data centers together, possibly leading to some sort of ISP service in the future.

I hope that this game of corporation musical-chairs doesn’t end up hurting consumer choice, but I’m not optimistic. I can’t imagine a better way to make money than collecting tolls on the information superhighway.

Waileia Re-Launches

After a nearly one-year hiatus, I’m pleased to announce that Waileia has officially re-launched. Welcome back! The world hasn’t stopped changing since my last post in February, 2005, so there’s clearly a lot of catch-up work to be done.

I’m excited to announce that after many months of debating, designing, and coding, I’ve officially switched to WordPress, an open-source weblog engine that I think will provide me with more flexibility in getting my thoughts from my brain to the world.

Unfortunately, few changes come without downsides, and this is no exception. If you’re one of the many incredibly cool people that have linked to me through a previous permalink, you’ll want to update the link to the new format. It’s not too difficult to do – just delete any zeros in front of the file name and erase the “.html” extension at the end. If you do use an old link, I’ll provide a direct link to the new location in the 404 error message. (I may decide to make this a permanent redirect, but for the moment, it’s not.) As long as you’re using a recent version of a mainstream feed reader, you’ll have no problems with the new RSS 2.0 feed – I’ve set up permanent redirects on the old feed URLs to make it easy to find.

Thanks to all of you for your support of Waileia over the years. It’s truly you that motivates me to share this journal with the world.