Having it Both Ways with the Telco Carriers

The Media and Democracy Coalition is objecting to the fact that AT&T and Verizon are streamlining their operations.  The opponents of the Telco carriers always seem to want it both ways:  When it comes to carriers making money or protecting their existing businesses, opponents insisit on public policies that will promote competition at the expense of the carriers.  Yet the same people expect carriers to spend billions on improving infrastructure or maintaining redundancies in workforce.

Opponents of the telecoms often savor the thought of over-the-top service wreaking creative destruction upon the established telecom and cable TV operators.  Subsidized bandwidth for Netflix, cable TV “cord cutting“, and the demise of carrier phone service in favor of Voice over IP providers like Skype — these are all good things, we are told.  With carrier land-line revenues dwindling and what could be the beginning of a trend with pay TV “cord cutting”, the opponents of carriers could be getting their wish.  Yet the telecom carriers are continually portrayed as stingy on infrastructure investment and jobs, while Internet companies are portrayed as heroes despite the opposite being true.

When AT&T complains about genuine lack of spectrum, they’re not supposed to be able to buy it from Qualcomm or get it from a T-Mobile merger. But the company is certainly blamed for selling less wireless capacity to mobile broadband users.  It would be nice if the carriers could spend ever-increasing billions, even while facing an increasingly competitive marketplace, but we can’t have it both ways in the real world.

  • Steve Crowley

    The MADCo letter takes a narrow view of telco jobs, as if they all exist at the service providers. They also extend to contractors, equipment vendors, content providers, etc. I know a group of Verizon Wireless engineers that left and now consult back to the company and others. Equipment manufacturers increasingly take over the operation of the network; 6000 Sprint employees lost their jobs when the company outsourced operations and maintenance of the network to Ericsson a couple of years ago. The next day they had new jobs with Ericsson, and I think they’ll increase their value by learning better ways of running a network.

    Someone came by to install a smart meter at my home a couple of weeks ago. He’s a former PEPCO meter reader who was laid off and is now a tech for the smart meter installation contractor. He said he took 8 weeks of classes in radio before they sent him out. He lost his PEPCO job, but his career has advanced considerably as far as he’s concerned.

  • George Ou

    That’s a really great point Steve.

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