Lost amid the year-end fuss was a long-expected development that will have profound effects for viewers on the west coast, in the midwest, and in the southeastern United States. The Federal Communications Commission quietly approved
a merger between AT&T (as the combined company will be known) and Bell South. How will this affect nascent telco TV
service? Just look at the Wiki map
: Three companies now control the bulk of the traditional telecom business (not counting cable or VOIP, of course). See those two gigantic swatches in blue? That is AT&T's newly expanded territory. While Verizon's geographic territory is far smaller than that of Qwest, it includes many more subscribers. That leaves AT&T and Verizon as the most influential players. And they don't plan to compete in video services outside their defined territories. They will compete only with cable and satellite outfits within their territories. Despite rumors that the two Democratic commissioners would vote nay, the FCC vote was unanimous, 4-0, with one absention due to conflict of interest. That the surprise compromise will guarantee net neutrality
is being cited as a victory for media watchdogs. Unfortunately, the promise comes with a two-year time limit, and does not apply to video-over-IP services.