National Geographic : 1982 Nov
Where is the Bell System going? Nothing has done so much to change the world we live in as the telephone. Yet the basic operating principles of the Bell System itself have changed very little over the past hundred years. It was all because we had a single overriding goal: universal service. Dependable service at reasonable rates for everyone who wanted it. And in order to achieve this goal, telephone exchanges were estab lished as exclusive franchises and were permitted to operate without competition. But the government strictly regulated our rates and profits. Today, 96% of the nation's homes have phone service. So now America and the Bell System can change old goals for new ones. The regulators and legislators in this country are looking more to the marketplace and competition rather than regulation-to decide who will provide competitive ser vices and equipment and how they will be priced. The biggest force behind this change has been new technology, which has changed the very nature of telecommunications. We are on the threshold of a new era: the Information Age. The technology of communications has gradually merged with that of computers. And the marriage of these two technologies offers the potential for an impressive array of new customer services. However, the blending of these two technologies has also blurred the boundaries between a tradition ally regulated business-commu nications-and the unregulated data processing industry. This circumstance has led to some major rethinking of public policies on telecommunications. Policies to which the Bell System must conform. And in order to con form, the Bell System must change. To begin with, the Bell telephone companies will have to be separated from their parent company, AT&T. Among other things, these local op erating companies will continue to provide basic service under state regulation, and they'll serve as the gateway to the new Information Age. SBell System Because it is being thrust into a marketplace that is intensely com petitive, AT&T-the parent com pany-is also going to change. The task of bringing these changes about is enormous. But we are determined to make the transition a smooth one. AT&T will continue to create and provide new products and services to meet your changing needs. And Western Electric, Bell Labs and Long Lines will continue to remain vital parts of AT&T We want to keep our customers, shareowners and employees in formed every step of the way. So along with your local Bell telephone company, we'll be talking with you in ads like this about varying aspects of the coming changes. It's all part of the "Let's Talk" program set up bythe Bell System. Each ad will have a number to call: 1800 555-5000. There'll be somebody to talk to. Somebody to help you. Somebody to answer your questions. Somebody to get you information. So call us. And we'll be talking with you. Lets talk.