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TUCoPS :: Phreaking General Information :: hellbell.txt

Script for "Hell's Bells: A Radio History of the Telephone"

Script for "Hell's Bells: A Radio History of the Telephone"

efx:  segment from Bell South divestiture celebration ceremony

When AT&T spun-off it's local exchanges into seven regional holding
companies, the services, the technical systems, the billing -- everything
had to be set-up to operate a new way.  Planners said it was like
disassembling  a Boeing 747 airliner in mid-flight -- then reassembling the
pieces into smaller 727s -- without crashing any of the eight aircraft and
without the passengers noticing anything unusual about their flight.

Blankenship: We had heard a lot of rumors that "oh, well, they're talking
about selling Pacific Telephone and a couple other companies and maybe
getting rid of Western Electric.  But we didn't visualize, I don't think,
what it actually ended up being, in terms of losing our inter-LATA
capability as well as our interstate capability.

Joan Moore:  I don't think we realized what it meant, divestiture. The
impact it would have on all of us and the company and the society that we
live in.

Narrator:  Joan Moore is a union representative for the Communications
Workers of America.  She began her long career with what was then 
Pacific Telephone, as a directory assistance operator and later become
one of the very first women to climb poles as a maintenance 

Moore: But it was a tremendous change for all of us.  And all of a 
sudden you were working for a different company.  The attitudes were 
different.  The systems instruction books that I told you filled a 
whole room -- we were no longer a "System" any more.  So en someone 
said 'you're in violation of S.I. 24, '  Hey, there is no S.I. 24.  
This ain't a System anymore.  And nobody knew how to handle that!  I 
mean, this was a military, Catholic Church organization and all of a 
sudden somebody took the Mother away!  You know! (laughs)   So what 
are we gonna do?  There was really a lack of direction.  

Music (fade under)  breaking up

efx:  segment from Bell South divestiture celebration ceremony

Bob Clark:  Well, I think that that concern was real when it was being
raised.  And I think there was probably even a time that that concern 
was being lived out.

Narrator:  Bob Clark is a Vice President of Sales and Marketing for 

Clark:  I can remember a time when somebody had something go wrong in 
their service, and there would be a lot of finger-pointing.  You know,
was it on this side of the network or on that side of the network, and
where did the fault lie, and not a lot of clarity sometimes between 
companies who, once, maybe were brothers and sisters and now might 
have been in a different arrangement.  So I think that did happen for 

But one of the things that a competitive marketplace, and in this 
particular industry I think that it's really helped everybody a lot, 
is that you do come to the realization that the only way you can 
compete, is you've got to compete on quality.  And the minute you come
to that conclusion, that you've got to compete on quality, then all of
a sudden the customer becomes more important than they've ever been.  

Narrator:  From day one, AT&T was competing head-to-head with other 
equipment manufacturers such as Northern Telecom, and fought bitterly 
on the long-distance side with MCI and Sprint.  AT&T realized 
immediately that it must slim-down and become more in tune with the 
market.  The Bell Operating companies caught some of this spirit, too.
Although they were still monopoly providers, they were losing many of 
their largest business and institutional customers.  And they knew 
that eventually there would be competition for local toll service 
within the LATAs.  

Each in its own way, the Bell companies struggled to reinvent 
themselves.  Like insecure teenagers endlessly combing their hair in 
the mirror, they yearned to be more than just plain-old monopoly phone

(music:  Breaking up is hard to do...cont.)

Narrator:  Over the last ten years, since the breakup of AT&T we have 
seen an explosion in the number and variety of telephone-based 
information services. Some are designed to sell a product, others 
distribute information for a fee, and still others are designed to 
save a company money by automating some front-desk operations.  

Audiotex info provider menu sound track

Narrator:  Just two decades ago, it would have been impossible for 
anyone but AT&T to attach such a service to the network.  Now anyone 
can operate their own messaging, FAX, data, audio, imaging...or ANY 
kind of service from their phone lines. 

With the divestiture of the Bell operating companies from AT&T in 
1984, the seven "baby bells" were restricted from long-distance, 
manufacturing, and information services.  These were to be the domain 
of AT&T and it's competitors.  But over these last ten years, the 
monopoly Bells have fought hard to enter these fields, especially 
information services.

Kathie Blankenship of Pacific Bell was director of a marketing 
strategy group looking for ways to enter the enticing world of 
information services 

Blankenship:  I think there was a lot of looking across the ocean, to 
France especially.  France had had the most outdated telephone system 
at one time, and all of a sudden about that time frame we were hearing
about the tremendous success of the mini-tel system.  They had 
actually gone in and given away dumb terminals to consumers and had 
information services and they were making lots of money and that sort 
of thing.  A lot of our policy makers in the United States were going 
over there and looking at that, and saying why don't we have that kind
of infrastructure in this country?  What's preventing it?  And they 
were asking that question of a lot of different companies and 
organizations.  We had the consumer advisory panel looking at how 
could the information age be brought to California, working with 
Pacific Bell around that time frame.  

Narrator:  The consumer advisory panel was known as The Intelligent 
Network Task Force, and was made up of influential community leaders. 
Pacific Bell gave each of them a Macintosh computer, a free calling 
card, a travel budget, staff support, and a mission: Publish a vision,
a call to action, about the telco's role in establishing a unified 
infrastructure for schools, homes, business, government, and community

Their report was given wide circulation throughout the U.S. and served
as a template for a national grassroots lobbying effort.  The panel's 
vision was met with a mostly sympathetic company response, and 
eventually was digested and absorbed into what is today's corporate 
vision.  Dubbed "The Knowledge Network," the idea was to facilitate 
computing networks, distance learning, and more efficient school 
administration through centralized facilities designed and controlled 
by the local telephone company.  

Here there were vestiges of the traditional monopoly mindset.  Pacific
Bell professed that social needs would be far better served if the 
educational software were all housed in the "intelligent network."

Blankenship:  I think the fundamental question was, "gee, we're 
hearing so much about technology, and we're looking at other countries
and they're using technology, and the computer is supposed to be a 
wonderful thing, but there isn't a computer in every household and the
computers aren't all linked together and why isn't that happening?  
And so we got into a lot of discussions about what benefit, what 
value-add, could the local exchange companies bring, particularly to 
information services, if we were allowed. 

And there was a lot of discussion about the concept of a gateway, 
where it would be -- what could you do if you had the technology to 
use information services?  What kinds of things could you have?  
Medical imaging, remote x-ray diagnostics, there were lists and lists 
and lists of the kinds of things that could be done that would be 
facilitated by this gateway.  Some of the discussions actually led to 
some of the freedoms that we did actually achieve from Judge Greene's 
order on information services.

Narrator:  Restrained by the terms of the Conset Decree, the Bell 
companies have lobbied long and hard in Congress...using special 800 
numbers to pound the Capitol with constituent phone calls and 
telegrams.  Their sometimes shrill message has been  -- you can't do 
this without us -- the information age will miscarry if our hands 
remain tied by artificial legal restrictions.   

Audrie Krause:  They're agenda and their vision of this information 
revolution are utter nonsense.

Narrator:  Audrie Krause is Executive Director of TURN -- Toward 
Utility Rate Normalization, an influential San Francisco-based 
consumer group which scrutinizes the complex financial maneuvers of 
Pacific Bell. 

Krause:  If you allow the regional bell operating companies to dump 
the costs of upgrading the network to an entirely fiber optic system 
at the expense of ratepayers, you will price basic phone service out 
of the affordable range for probably a majority of Americans.  

I think what's really going on is that big powerful monopolies that 
used to have it all are worried because the monopoly they have is not 
everything anymore; it's one very important part of our 
telecommunications infrastructure -- the basic part of it -- the 
connection we all get to the telephone system.  My feeling is that 
ought to be good enough for them and they ought to do a good job of 
running that and running it at low cost and making it work for 
everybody.  If they would refocus their goal on that, and on truly 
getting to the point of universal affordable telephone service, let 
private enterprise take care of the rest of it, because it's out 
there, and if there's a demand for services, somebody's going to 
provide it and going to be able to do so at a competitive price.  
Certainly there will be winners and losers in the competitive 
marketplace, but those winners and losers should be funded by people 
who are willing to risk their capital through the stock market.

Narrator:  Many ratepayers don't want the price of basic service to 
pay for fancy new information services.  But the definition of basic 
affordable service may be gradually changing, evolving to include more
sophisticated connections between homes, businesses, government 
institutions, and schools -- connections that would be available to 
everyone at low cost.  Andrew Jay Schwartzman is an attorney with the 
Media Access Project in Washington D.C., a group which speaks up for 
the public interest in the changing world of communications policy.

Schwartzman:  I think that those who advocate letting the services 
develop and cater to the higher end of the market -- business and the 
occasional wealthy individual who can afford them -- are missing the 
point both from a political perspective and an economic perspective.  
Politically, telecommunications is the mechanism by which we exercise 
our voice in the democratic process in the last years of the twentieth
century.  And by giving the tools to a few rather than to the many, 
you create barriers and differences between and among us that have 
great political cost.  

Mike Godwin:  I think what the Bells see, what you tend to see when 
you talk to people in the Bells is they want big pipes.  

Narrator:  Mike Godwin is legal counsel to the Electronic Frontier 
Foundation, a group dedicated to the preservation of civil rights in 
the information age...

Godwin: They want fiber to the home, which -- fiber optics to the home
are gonna take thirty years, my guess, to implement up in the ninety 
percentile range.  But they want to have this high bandwidth -- 
really, really high bandwidth connectivity to the home.  The idea 
being that once you do that you can send video telephone and other 
kinds video media that are transported over the phone lines.  That's 
very exciting to them.  But it's essentially a hardware vision.  I 
think what it lacks and what some other groups are able to provide, is
a social vision or maybe some kind of -- that vision thing -- about 
what people are gonna do with this hardware once it's in place.  

Narrator:  Because they are so big, the Bell operating companies were 
legally restrained from entering into the content business, the 
creation or manipulation of information.  Now the courts have lifted 
many of the information services restrictions. So far, the Bells have 
played the role of  pure common-carrier, a neutral, non-discriminatory
conduit for the information of others.

But in a curious twisting of roles, the phone companies want to retain
their historic role as common carrier, but also desire First-Amendment
rights to publish, package, and edit the new information services 
flowing over their network.

Kitty Burnick:  Just being the provider of the pipeline isn't enough 
to make the investment worthwhile, so you need to be able to have some
control of the programming.

Narrator:  Kitty Burnick is director of External Affairs for the 
Pacific Telesis Group in San Francisco, the parent company of Pacific 

Burnick:  You're talking about shaking things up that didn't really 
even exist a decade ago. There wasn't cellular service a decade ago.  
We didn't have information services a decade ago.  And so people who 
had invested in one kind of technology, for example printing presses, 
could afford to be complacent and not have to worry about their 
investment being at risk.  Since technology is changing so rapidly, it
becomes a political debate, and I think any existing entrenched 
competitor fears competition.

Narrator:  But entrenchment is in the eye of the beholder.  Burnick 
portrays Telesis as a David taking on the publishing Goliath -- the 
American Newspaper Publishers Association.  Meanwhile AT&T, recently 
freed to enter information services, has taken out newspaper ads 
condemning the Bell Operating Companies as monopolists.  A. Michael 
Noll is a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the 
University of Southern California.

Noll:  In terms of past history, if you look at the AT&T history from 
the perspective of just monopolization, you certainly see a lot there 
that could create a pattern.  You see these early days of the 
Morgan-Vail combination, attempting to wipe out their competitors and 
simply acquire them.  You see the Vail-Morgan view of a monopoly of 
telephone and telegraph service, together, a total monopolization of 
all telecommunications.  So you see it there.  It failed -- because of
threats of government action.  So that monopoly disappeared from their

So, there is, in a sense, if you look at that past history, you can 
say, you could lay claim that whatever the AT&T empire got near, in 
terms of a new business, their instant attempts were to monopolize it.
So you could claim that.

Nick Johnson:  The single most important issue in telecommunications 
policy right now is the issue of the extent to which telephone 
companies, those who provide the conduits for communication, should be
permitted to also provide the content that flows along those conduits.

Narrator: Former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson wrote the landmark 
Carterphone and MCI decisions which opened the door to competition in 
the telephone business.

Johnson:  It's my position that that raises enormous problems for our 
society, not only for consumers and regulators but actually for 
shareholders in the telephone companies as well, who I think will end 
up making less money if their companies go off down this road.  

Burnick:  Well we DO want to be a content provier.  We already are a 
content provider.  Being a content provider is different than the 
notion of how you provide that content.  And I think this whole 
discussion about content vs. conduit, to me, insults the intelligence 
of the American consumer.  What it all boils down to is let the 
marketplace decide who should be providing what services.  And the 
consumers can make some intelligent choices for themselves about what 
they choose to watch, what they choose to buy, what phone numbers they
choose to call.  And it's the consumer and the marketplace that's 
deciding that, not some bureaucrat or some self-appointed guardian of 
the public's First Amendment rights.

Schwartzman:  The danger of creating a bottleneck by allowing those 
who control the the access into the home, to determine the content of 
what travels into the home, I think is a grave threat to the 
democratic process and to the lives of our grandchildren.  

Burnick:  I think that is a totally absurd argument and that's the 
argument that the newspapers made when radio was introduced 50 years 
ago.  That radio would be controlling the editorial content, that 
newspapers would go down the drain -- this is a quote -- that 
'newspapers would be nothing but a plaque on the halls of Radio City 
Music Hall.'  And that's nonsense!  Newspapers are flourishing.  If 
you've ever sat on public transportation you've seen the number of 
newspapers that people are looking at.  People want a variety of media
for their information.  

Schwartzman:  I don't think that the telephone companies ought to have
any role whatsoever in determining content or other alternatives which
have been suggested such as quote-unquote bundling of programming.  I 
believe that it will be most unfortunate if the telephone companies 
succeed in earning some degree of First Amendment speaker status, 
which they have been demanding and asking for, and I profoundly hope 
that the courts will reject those claims.  

Burnick:  First amendment rights of corporations, lots of 
corporations, not just media companies like the New York Times or Cox 
Cable, have been recognized by the U.S. Supreme court for this entire 
century.  The most dominant case was in the late '70s when the Supreme
Court found that all corporations have First Amendment rights.  The 
First Amendment protects all speech, by EVERYONE.  One of the purposes
of the First Amendment is to promote a full discussion of issues.  
Therefore all speech is allowed and the source is irrelevant.  So to 
say that some corporations, that newspaper companies have First 
Amendment rights and other corporations don't, is just plain wrong 
under the current laws of this country.

Johnson:  With this right of speech goes their right to censor any 
view they don't like.  So having lost our First Amendment rights with 
regard to newspapers, with regard to radio, with regard to television 
and just about with regard to cable -- the fight is still going on 
there to some degree -- and the billing envelope, we've lost all those
things -- the ONLY remaining media of mass communication in this 
country to which we all have a legally enforceable right of access is 
the telephone system.  

I think it's going to be very difficult, once the telephone company 
gets in the information business, to try to get the Supreme Court to 
understand and support the notion that although newspapers can censor 
and radio stations can censor and television stations can censor and 
cable television systems can censor and utility envelopes can be 
censored, that somehow the telephone company can't censor.  I mean, 
why is that going be, that the telephone company is so different from 
all these others that when they are using their own conduit for their 
own communication and their own exercise of First Amendment rights, 
that somehow their First Amendment rights don't permit them to censor 
other people -- even though others do.  

So I think it's just incredibly dangerous and it will mean the 
absolute end of free speech in America -- for citizens.  It won't mean
the end of free speech in America for the people with a hundred 
million dollars of spare pocket change, who can go out and buy a 
television station or newspaper.  But if you don't happen to have a 
hundred million dollars in spare pocket change, you're going to be 
denied your ability to communicate by means of the most effective 
monopolistic conduits of communication in this country which are the 
way by which most people get their information.

Burnick: We were not able to, as much as our customers would have 
liked us to, we were not able to stop carrying the traffic of 
dial-a-porn providers.  What the courts did enable us to do, because 
we were common carriers, was to segment their services onto certain 
types of lines, they also permitted us not to bill and collect for 
those services.  But we were not able, indeed, we continue to carry, 
dial-a-porn traffic because the courts have ruled that as common 
carriers we cannot exclude that or any other particular content that 
we or anyone else may decide is unsavory.

Transition music begins

Schwartzman:  Where  we want to be at the end is broadband-type 
services available to all members of the public.  Whether this has to 
be fiber to the home, whether this has to be by the year 2010 or 2015 
or 2020 -- that's less clear to me.  What I feel most strongly about 
is that this has to be done on a pure common carrier basis.  There 
must be complete separation between the ownership of the conduit, and 
control of the editorial content of material that is carried over 
these transmission systems.  

 Burnick:  We've never said, of any of the businesses that we're in, 
whether it's information services or voice mail or cellular, that 
we want to be the only provider or that we should be the only provider
or that we're best suited to be a provider.  What we're saying is let 
us be a player, let us be one of the players, and see what consumers 
and the marketplace decide.  Let them decide, don't let the 
bureaucrats decide.

Narrator:  The telephone giants have their share of bureaucrats too.  
How will they respond when faced with agonizing editorial choices -- 
when the Cop Killer video is broadcast on their channels or the Ku 
Klux Klan wants a slot in the new fall lineup?  Will they wear their 
traditional hat as neutral common carrier, or will they reach for a 
new hat, that of editorial gatekeeper.  Perhaps we CAN have it both 
ways, but only if the groundrules for this game are clearly spelled 
out  -- and we all keep a watchful  eye, as we write this next chapter
in the history of the telephone. 

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