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A new face, Not Unlike the Old One?


By Scott Bradner


I've been pondering the AT&T / SBC meld for a while, mostly with derision.  (See, for example, Oedipus techs  The combination, called a merger on the new AT&T web page ( but rather much more of an acquisition along the lines of buying an old Victoria at a yard sale, became final on November 18.  The new company, counter to my expectation back in February, has taken the name AT&T and adopted a logo that is a more colorful version of the old AT&T deathstar one.  In other words, SBC has now put on a new image, very much along the lines of the French "face transplant" to a dog bite victim that was done less than 10 days later.


Reading the news coverage of the French operation I was struck some amazing coincidences (to follow the lead of an old late night comedy routine) between the two events.


The French doctors took the face off of a brain dead donor and put it on a person that was in rather bad shape.  That is pretty much what happened with AT&T and SBC.  If AT&T was not brain dead it was clearly in an advanced state of brain decay.  For years, they had not done anything technically or in the realm of business that would indicate to an outside observer that there was much more than the autonomic nervous system working anymore.  At the same time, SBC was no Charles Atlas, instead it was well on its way to being the 90 pound weakling.  I should note that there were lingering pockets of neural function left in AT&T, one of these was AT&T's very good Washington lobbying effort which spent much of its time trying to counterbalance the greed of companies like SBC.  I do not expect that effort is long for this world.


The New York Times coverage of the French operation headlined that the woman got "a new face, not unlike the old one."  Not unlike the old one because many characteristics of the new face would be guided by the underlying bony structure of the recipient.  I fully expect that the "new" AT&T will think, if thatŐs the right word, and act just like the old SBC.  


The Washington Post report noted that "no bones were transplanted during the operation." It's not clear that there were many bones left in the old AT&T that could have been transplanted but there is no indication that any were.


It now develops that the dog may have been trying to wake the woman who became the recipient in the French transplant from the effects of a suicide attempt. It is hard to count the number of times that the old AT&T did things that just about killed it.  AT&T finally succeeded. Now all that is left is a black and blue logo that is the face of the new company, just like the reportedly black and blue face of the French woman. 


I hope that she does better with her new face than I expect SBC (AT&T) will (unless congress interrupts the fate that economic Darwinism would otherwise dictate).


disclaimer: Harvard is thinking about a new face ( to complement, rather than replace, the old one but the above commentary on new faces is my own.