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The History of the Telecom and Information Revolution

The Creation of the New AT&T Caps Two Decades of Unprecedented Change in Communications

In 1984, most of those in the working world enjoyed "information technology infrastructure" that consisted of a telephone, a typewriter, envelopes and stamps. Home users' communications portfolios consisted of the phone and the mailbox.

1984 was a year of dramatic change for the telecommunications industry, as AT&T was split into a long distance company and regional local providers. As it turned out, this event marked the beginning of two decades of continuous transformation for the industry. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 established a second wave of regulatory change, but the evolution of technology would have a more lasting impact, as the rise of the Internet and wireless services changed forever the way we communicate.

Today, the communications industry is on the verge of another wave of dramatic change. The number of wireless accounts in the United States now exceeds land-line accounts, and 61 percent of U.S. households utilize broadband Internet connections.

The new AT&T is positioning itself to be an industry leader through these exciting times. Realizing the vision for the combined company, and the industry as a whole, starts with understanding how the companies have evolved from their landmark split 21 years ago. As technology and regulatory policy have evolved over those two decades, the stage was set for the creation of a new breed of provider that can deliver the promise of convergence through competing technologies, unshackled from the old artificial boundaries of geographic territories and regulatory policies that held back true competition.

The SBC evolution of morphing from a regional local phone company to a global competitor is the common thread that tells the story of this overall industry transformation. It's a story about how one company's ambitions and journey illustrate the seismic changes of the past 20 years.

Just two decades ago, the NSFNET — forerunner of the Internet — was a modest network developed to help a small circle of university researchers share data. Today, IP, or Internet Protocol, is the core language of the Internet, and it now offers the capability of carrying voice, data or video, and of delivering services via wireline or wireless networks to any number of enabled devices. The IP revolution is now well under way — a revolution that the new AT&T is poised to capitalize on for its customers — leading them into a new generation of integrated, IP-based services.

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