Om Malik is all worked up about MCI emerging from bankruptcy and launching a devastating price war. I say don’t worry, be happy.
There are really only two intellectually honest viewpoints about the
future of the telecom industry. Om’s perspective is on one side,
where the most thoughtful advocate is Eli Noam of
Columbia University. The argument is that telecom is locked in a
deflationary death spiral, which only the stabilizing influence of
regulators and oligopolies can avert. Conventional wisdom puts
FCC Chairman Michael Powell in this camp, but I think he’s a believer
in the other perspective, where I generally find myself.
The alternative argument is that the death of the telecom inudstry as
we know it is inevitable, and efforts to pull it out of the tailspin
will only prolong and increase the pain. Ten years ago, there was
a $200 billion annual business in the US based primarily on charging
usage fees for voice communications. That’s going away.
Something else may replace it, but it will be a data internetworking
industry with voice as one lucrative application. The more we
spend our energy pulling back from the brink, the less we focus on
defining what will come out the other side. And the less we think
the unthinkable and work on making the inevitably painful transition
less painful. That’s what’s at stake in the upcoming FCC voice
over IP proceeding, among other places.