(Alexandria, VA) -- In response to the proposed acquisition of AT&T by SBC Communications, John Berthoud, President of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), today issued the following statement:
These are exciting times for technology. The dynamic telecommunications industry continues to deliver products and services that would have been unimaginable only a decade ago. As new technologies emerge and old technologies fade, it is inevitable that consolidation in the telecom industry will occur. After all, companies must constantly strive to remain competitive by providing consumers with a broader array of services. Free markets that allow companies to grow, merge, and split as they see fit (and also to emerge or disappear), offer the maximum benefits to consumers in the form of advancing technology and best possible price.
It is important that analysts not confuse this event with the breakup of the former government-sanctioned Bell monopoly in 1984. The AT&T behemoth of 1984 has become merely another fish in a rapidly expanding sea of telecom service providers. To claim that this acquisition will result in "re-monopolization," as some so-called consumer advocates have contended, is pure folly.
Accusations that SBC's move would somehow reduce competition are rendered moot by the very existence of cable and DSL broadband Internet, mobile wireless, WiFi, and the development of VoIP. In fact, the emergence of these revolutionary technologies resulted directly from a lack of regulation. Hamstringing the private sector and thus economic growth would have the most adverse consequences on the constituencies these advocates claim to principally serve.
Government officials should bear in mind Milton Friedman's gifted insight that technological advances provide the greatest benefits to the average citizen. Friedman observed, 'the great achievements of western capitalism have rebounded primarily to the benefit of the ordinary person. These achievements have made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful.' If government wants to help all citizens -- but especially low-income citizens -- benefit from technology, it should keep out of the way, not try to micromanage.
As the telecommunications world continues to rapidly evolve, the regulatory and tax environment will become an increasingly important issue to taxpayers. Breaking down archaic regulations and limiting tax burdens on technology providers will be the best way for all Americans to realize the promise of still more innovations in the future.
Founded in 1969, NTU works for limited government, lower taxes, and free markets as the best path to prosperity. For more information on NTU's technology policy issues, visit www.ntu.org.