The Other Shoe Drops

Verizon announced today that it is buying MCI. Not a surprise to anyone, especially after the AT&T/SBC announcement two weeks ago. Another domino falls, and another telecom competitor goes off the boards.

One worry about these two deals is they give incumbent local phone companies control over a huge chunk of the Internet backbone. MCI controls the former UUNet network, and has been among the top providers of core Internet infrastructure from the early days of the commercial Net. If the pending mergers go through, Sprint and Level 3 become the only major independent backbones, and both are in somewhat shaky positions in their own right.

We take it for granted that Internet peering and transport in the US aren’t subject to the competitive and regulatory gamesmanship we’ve seen in the telephone world. That may not be true in the future.