December 17, 2012, 4:35 PM — Way, way, way long ago, the phone company was the only game in town if you wanted a phone (yes, there was a time before cell phones where people had to use a telephone that was connected by a wire). But in the late '60s and early '70s, the FCC started to make decisions that allowed for additional companies to get into the game. In 1974, an antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against AT&T started the ball rolling toward the eventual divestiture of the Bell System (which took effect on Jan. 1, 1984).
AT&T, through its Tech Archive channel on YouTube, today posted a film from 1970 (courtesy of Western Electric) that tried to convince viewers of the benefits of a regulated monopoly. The company today states that the film was published "for historical interest only, and does not reflect in any way current AT&T policy or positions."
While the topic presented here seems rather dry, the film is punched up through funky 1970-style artwork. Any kid who grew up in the 1970s would immediately recognize the style from the Saturday Morning "Schoolhouse Rock" videos. While not animated here (they're a bunch of stills with Ken Burns-like effects of zooming and panning, it's a joy to see the humorous artwork presented here.
It's also interesting to see the evolution of the phone company from the time of the film (1970) to the eventual divestiture and competition that took place (in terms of long-distance service). After that, a lot of the Regional Bell Operating Companies ended up merging with each other anyway, so the fear about a gajillion different companies didn't really happen. When you add in the companies providing Internet service and cell phone service, we're also not seeing a ton of competition, but at least there is something.
I wonder what a similar film would sound like today - would it resonate the same in 2012 as it did with 1970 viewers?
Keith Shaw rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.