The Company You Cant Escape
In the good old days before the government tore Ma Bell apart via deregulation, AT&T reached directly into every house, business and pocket by providing telephone service for absolutely everyone. After SBC Communications' 2006 acquisition of BellSouth and the subsequent rebirth of the AT&T name and corporation, the company's influence may seem to be regional. But it's truly global-and more than a little scary.AT&T also has a very attractive stable of mobile devices, as the company seems more than willing to prostrate itself before hardware manufacturers (namely, Apple) to gain exclusive rights to distribute Internet devices that truly change the market. If you're a business customer, AT&T's portfolio of innovative mobile services and applications-to go along with some groundbreaking billing alternatives-make the choice of mobile operator pretty simple. Of course, trust is hard to come by-and probably harder to rebuild-and AT&T (and its SBC, BellSouth and PacBell forebears) has generated much ill will through the years with bad support, ridiculous service contracts and an overall penchant for being overbearing. But even for those who choose to eschew AT&T's residential, long-distance and VOIP (voice over IP) telephony service-as well as its DSL broadband and Advanced TV services, not to mention the entire mobile network-well, AT&T's got its thumb on them, too. Because AT&T is a Tier 1 service provider, it's quite likely your online presence traverses the AT&T network frequently, even if you aren't an actual AT&T customer. This means your data is susceptible to the company's whims and machinations.
On the plus side, AT&T continues to offer things that people want. For better Internet coverage on the go, AT&T's takeover of the Starbucks Wi-Fi network looks appealing and affordable (at least for the coffee drinkers among us). And the company continues to grow its third-generation footprint, as HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) and HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access) rollouts continue apace.