will talk to each other instead of blowing their brains out'
1976, I was working as a telecommunications consultant in Iran,
on a multi-million dollar project designed to upgrade the then Shah
of Irans telephone network. During that time, I had the opportunity
to work alongside some of the greatest experts in the business.
These were members of American Bell Inc., the huge U.S. telecommunications
conglomerate that would eventually be broken up into AT&T and
the Baby Bells through the US anti-trust ruling of 1978. The era
of worldwide competition within the industry was just around the
Apart from the legal changes, the technology at the time was moving from
analogue to digital. This breakthrough would be the forerunner of the
integration of computers and telecommunications. Mobile phone technology
was still on the drawing board and light years away. Fax messaging was
just emerging as the modern threat to telex and the next best thing since
sliced bread in message transmission. Personal computers were unheard
of and as for the Internet; well, no one in the business in the late 70s
could have imagined what was in store in the future. Nevertheless, I never
forgot, to this day, the words of one of my partners in sin, Bill Jones
from South Carolina when he said: Good old POTS, short for plain
old telephone service. Jim, just think of what were doing
in this underdeveloped nation. You cant go wrong in this world if
you can offer humanity, and I mean the whole world a cheap gadget that
they can use to talk to someone thousands of miles away. People will talk
to each other instead of blowing their brains out. Poor philanthropist!
And yet, 25 years later, despite the explosion of all kinds of different
services and oddball companies, the whole telecommunications industry
is in a financial turmoil. OK so are many other sectors of business, but
I happen to know about my lot. Take Worldcom (once called MCI, the original
company that caused the break up of the Bell system) and Qwest to name
but a few. Theyre are all in Chapter 11. (protection from creditors
in bankrupcy limbo whilst continuing to trade.)
Why is it like this?
NASDAQ is a mess, and the big guys like Deutch Telecom and KPN in Europe
are struggling to make ends meet. When I retired as a pretty successful
executive of one of the many new conglomerates, I felt relieved that I
was finally out of the rat race. Yet I never lost track of Bills
words. Somehow I felt that despite the tremendous advances that were taking
place in the industry, from a worldwide perspective something was going
wrong. In fact, I wrote a speech for my farewell party that more or less
summed up my predictions for the future. It went something like this:
The world of telecommunications has become a universal whorehouse,
whereby every national and private operator is striving to outpace the
other. Gone are the days of bilateral agreements based on trust, understanding
of the needs of a service for the public read humanity and
the strict adherence to a set of rules and standards that have virtually
disappeared. Present day trends in the field are a mirror image of the
saturation of the developed nations fighting for the non-existent competitive
edge that is so obvious in supermarket philosophy. Multinational or trans-national
(as they are now called) environment feeds the hungry lust of these operators
enticing them into supplying over sophisticated services for profit margins
that border on the ridiculous.
Governments have lost control of the necessary legislation that protects
the public and are blinded by their political move towards procurement
of votes. The regulatory bodies are a farce and a puppet of the present
political machinery that speaks of competitiveness and introduction of
the same as the panacea of the developed world. What absolute garbage!
The underdeveloped world, on the other hand is struggling to understand
this tidal wave of telecom hypocrisy as it tries desperately to update
itself in the very basics of the new technology that has allowed this
avalanche to take place. The very essence of the need for mankind to communicate
has been lost in the whirlpool of profit making, marketing and a sluice
of gimmicks to conquer those customers, who in their own minds do not
care. There are millions of human beings today, who still do not know
what it is like to pick up an instrument, invented one hundred years ago
and talk to someone miles away! They have long been forgotten and replaced
by soft-spoken, greasy-haired, manicured meglomanics selling their grandmothers
for a tube full of bytes, or dial tone wrapped up in tinfoil with a funny
The age of man being dominated by machines has arrived. This is demonstrated
over and over again in computerisation, informatics, robotics and God
only knows what other inhuman inventions that are yet to come. Press a
button and it happens. Move a switch and whoosh! We are transported into
Alices Wonderland, only the Mad Hatter is real.
But let us not despair. Let us go back to the beginning and start to analyse
this monstrous fiend that now threatens to bury us in the spoils of the
universe, and see whether there is any hope to salvage the wreck and rid
it of the leprosy so that we may restore decency, respect and, above all
ethics to this once glorious industry called Telecommunications.
I never did get to say my piece!
I wrote my little epitaph six years ago.
© James Skinner. September 2002
PART I: WITH OR WITHOUT THE VIRGIN ?
ship was a sixties rust bucket all spruced up for the umpteenth time,
just like Bette Davies in Whatever happened to Baby Jane?
CRUISE Part Two & Three
MANY AMERICANS; FROM BOTH ENDS...
- Cruise Part 4
on Carrys On Cruising The Med
Part 4: my cabin was tucked away between the ships kitchen and the
CURSE OF SULLEYMANS TOILET - Cruise Part 5
dont want to buy anything, says my wife, can we please
continue our tour! Im petrified.
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