Steve Coll is a two time Pulitzer Prize winning writer. His first book, ‘The Deal of the Century,’ was about the breakup of AT&T. While not his best work it is interesting and gives the reader a lens from which to look through when and if another massive breakup of a company (say Amazon) is to occur.
People forget that AT&T was it. There was no other phone option for phone service in the US. Long story short, it wasn’t Congress or the White House or even the Justice Department who really broke up AT&T but it was AT&T themselves. Granted they saw the writing on the wall and agreed to a deal with Justice before the judge in the case could rule for which the judge was none too happy.
What I found very interesting was the fact that this case ran ruff-shot over government. Justice was running point, the Reagan Administration essentially recused itself due to the optics, Defense pulled the ‘national security’ lever to no avail and Congress (surprise, surprise) couldn’t get out of its own way. In the end AT&T had a massive say in how it was to be broken up and for several years afterward phone rates went up much to the surprise of us capitalists. In fact, it really wasn’t until the advent and wide distribution of mobile phones that you saw telephony really become democratized and affordable.
Coll has written several books and ones much better than this. This one is at times more of a legal finding than a narrative but it is informative and insightful. It is however not a summer read at the beach.