Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Sun Jul 20 17:02:40 UTC 2008

Timothy Murphy wrote:
>>>> I think just plain split up is a better description. I think history has
>>>> shown that the split wasn't done "sensibly" and unfortunately we aren't
>>>> going to get a do over any time soon.
>>> You haven't noticed the dismembered Bell's crawling back together to
>>> resurrect the monster?  Plus of, course devouring Cingular.  (I'm not a
>>> big fan of huge corporations...).
>> And part of the reason for that is the split was done incorrectly. It
>> should have been split so the local loops and the CO's were owned by
>> regulated monopolies (in each region) and those companies prohibited from
>> providing services over the copper (or fiber). Then the incumbents
>> wouldn't be able to eliminate competition by sabotaging it.
> Was the split-up good?
> As a complete outsider, it doesn't seem to me to have had a great effect,
> good or bad.

It was horrible, but so was the monopoly. People can afford to make long 
distance calls now and you can connect equipment made by someone other 
than Western Electric to the phone jacks.  And you can credit all of the 
fiber laid by competing companies that gives us the internet bandwidth 
we enjoy now to it.  Many of those companies went bankrupt since they 
weren't able to get AT&T-like prices in a competitive environment - 
meaning the monopoly had so wildly distorted the pricing that it 
confused normal business planning.

The problem the breakup caused was that they used their huge coffers of 
cash to buy up other companies (e.g. NCR) and mis-managed them into the 
ground since they had absolutely no experience in competitive business 
or pricing.  And the problem the reconstruction is causing is about the 
same. As the sales and billing operations of Cingular and the Bells is 
shifting back to central control it is beginning to take months to get a 
simple T1 installed and next-to-forever to get a credit that was due to 
a screwup in what used to be one of the other companies.

> What I found, and find, rather puzzling was the anti-trust ruling
> that did not allow AT&T to compete in software, or IBM in telephony.

The idea was that no single company should control communication from 
end to end as computers/software became significant parts.  A company 
should not be able to use its established monopoly position at one end 
of the line to force the equipment at the other end to match.  And the 
communication line providers should not be motivated to provide better 
service for their own end points than competitors.  Had AT&T been 
permitted to control the communication lines we'd probably have a split 
among OSI networks with telco-designed layers and AT&T-controlled 
directory services instead of near-universal IP networking with a 
universal DNS as we have now.

> On the face of it, this seemed to preserve monopolies
> rather than the opposite.

Monopolies in one field aren't considered as bad as using that existing 
monopoly to expand control into another field.  The current 
'net-neutrality' issues are along the same lines.  Broadband internet 
providers want to be directly in the media distribution business and 
they have the capability and motivation to sabotage connections from 
their customers to competing providers (as evidenced by Comcast actively 
breaking bittorrent until recently).

> To me, the saddest thing about the whole story was the demise of Bell Labs,
> at least as it used to be.
> A bit like the end of the Venetian republic.

Agreed - if you overcharge enough you can fund some nice unrelated 
projects, but things like unix really didn't have a reasonable way out 
of the lab into the real world.  It sort-of survived in educational 
environments on merit, but imagine what could have happened if there had 
been a company behind it that would have competed on price against 
everyone else.  When AT&T did start selling unix it was well over $1,000 
a box with the compiler and X as extra-cost options.  Businesses had no 
choice but to install Windows and the rest is history.

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

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