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How SBC (AT&T) Pillaged South Africa's Economy 270

Posted by kdawson
from the privatization-trumping-liberalization dept.
Kifoth writes "For 8 years, SBC and Telekom Malaysia controlled South Africa's only telecommunications company, Telkom. Telkom had a government granted monopoly in order for it to connect the large parts of South Africa that had been neglected under apartheid. Instead of helping, SBC abused their position and raised Telkom's prices to be among the highest in the world. The billions they made here ultimately went to fund their AT&T merger. From the article: 'SBC, described as "congenitally litigious", is said to have played a major role in the failure of South Africa's telecoms policy to develop a competitive telephone service. Under SBC's control Telkom not only failed to meet its roll-out obligations but behaved "as a tax on industry and a drag on economic growth."'"
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How SBC (AT&T) Pillaged South Africa's Economy

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  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:22PM (#20364193)
    Wow, a large company with a history of doing ridiculous things purely for its own profit, does a ridiculous thing purely for its own profit in a young foreign market, where it's no doubt easier to get away with this stuff.

    Seriously, I didn't see this one coming.

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NessunoImp (1138559) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:32PM (#20364309)
      Root of the problem: "as a privatised, state-backed monopoly without a forceful regulator...."

      When are governments going to learn? If you are going to privatize, you have to OPEN up the market rather than create a quasi-governmental monopoly. This reeks of mercantilism, which is a pre-capitalistic notion that it is better for a government to protect its industries than open the market to trade and/or competition.

      Mercantilism always has bizarre and harmful unintended consequences.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gmack (197796) <gmackNO@SPAMinnerfire.net> on Sunday August 26, 2007 @03:06PM (#20364623) Homepage Journal
        The trouble is that it's very hard to do that with telephone service. There are a lot of installation costs when the cables are put in the ground and the returns aren't very large.

        The problem here is that an inexperienced government got taken advantage of by SBC. SBC has a history of buying their way into a monopoly then abusing that position to no end. In several cases they have even gotten the local governments to ban VOIP and then blocking those ports at the isp leave.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Znork (31774)
          "The trouble is that it's very hard to do that with telephone service."

          No it isnt. It's no different than roads, sewage or other pieces of infrastructure.

          You simply have the state own them, let contractors bid for the construction, then make the infrastructure available (for a fee, a tax, or neither) to those who need the infrastructure. In the case of phones you simply let various phone companies sell their services over the infrastructure (and you can charge them over time for the expense of building it.
      • Mercantilism is not"pre-capitalist", it is a form of capitalism that takes a different from free market capitalism.

        I would say mercantilism is still very much alive and well, although no one would call it that: the usual phrase is something like "business friendly"

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ex-MislTech (557759) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @04:15PM (#20365209)
        When are governments going to learn?

        Let me explain this to you...the poor don't bankroll politicians campaigns, the rich do.

        Golden Rule ... The ppl with all the money make the rules, or in this case break them.

        Most politicians in most countries are quite corrupt.

        I am sure south africa is no exception to this.

        The world needs a way to monitor the affairs of their politicians,
        because for example here in the states, they often spend more to
        get into office than they will receive as a paycheck the entire
        time they are in office.

        The math doesn't add up.....until....you account for under the table
        gifts to them, their children, thei offshore accounts, numbered accounts
        in switzerland, etc etc.

        As Open Source is good for code, the world needs Open Government,
        where those who serve are well paid and jack assery like this
        I am about to mention is considered a crime, and sent to court accordingly:

        http://www.tispa.org/node/14 [tispa.org]

        $200 billion rip off right here in the USA.

        The telecoms have a history of total theft, and nothing short
        of destroying them totally and putting Co-ops in their place
        has any chance of succeeding against this carpet baggers
        of the new generation.

        The WorldCom's , the global crossings, the Bells, Adelphia,
        it just goes on and on.

        It needs to be a regulated utility, and when it is foudn they
        ripped us off "intentionally" they need their asses fined into oblivion.

    • During the apartheid days, South Africa had a well established telecommunications industry that could make phones etc. These companies could easily have done what was needed to provide the telecom infrastructure for the new Southa Africa. THis would have kept money in the country and provided a few more jobs.

      However, most of these companies were also involved in making military stuff that propped up the apartheid regime. Likely they were "punished", to the detrament of all.

    • by hxnwix (652290)

      I would just like to say that connecting the country of obscene profit taking with a continent of disrupted societies and precarious governments, with no oversight whatsoever... umm... Well it didn't have a good outcome.

      I'm sorry, but I don't see how anybody could possibly have predicted this. Clearly, we are looking at a bad situation and we should all pull together and do our part. This is not a time for blame - I know that if we all do our share, we can make the world a better place, "one sub-Saharan nation at a time."

      ~AT&T

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:22PM (#20364195)
    How South Africa's Government Pillaged South Africa's Economy
    • by sethawoolley (1005201) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:39PM (#20364389) Homepage

      How South Africa's Government Pillaged South Africa's Economy
      It's not clear from the article that South Africa's government gained anything from this (there's a small note about (greedy) "management smarts" being imported, but it is very clear how SBC gained enormously). The headline seems quite valid unless you're a fundamentalist market libertarian that can never find fault with a corporation since it's always the government's fault.

      A public process in this arrangement, as the article points out, would have caught this and corrected it. Public governments are thus not indictable. Yes, you can indict the government for letting it happen, but the ultimate source of the problem was corporate greed that lead to the collusion of government and a corporation, where if done systematically it would be called fascism.

      Ultimately, it's still SBC's fault, despite whatever proximate causes/contributors enabled it.

      • by mac1235 (962716) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @03:03PM (#20364591)
        Yeah, they should have mentions the government is the majority shareholder and got the lion's share of the profits...
        • Yeah, they should have mentions the government is the majority shareholder and got the lion's share of the profits...
          Yeah, I see that now, thanks. As I said, the article wasn't very clear.

          I consider it fascism at its most insidious: government owning a stake in a private corporation, and allowing it to run privately, without public oversight.

          Despite what minor bribes probably took place, that was the major bribe for the government.

      • It's not clear from the article that South Africa's government gained anything from this

        Good point. I'm sure no money changed hands between government officials and SBC. I'm sure they gained and maintained their state backed monopoly through a really clever sales pitch and a snappy powerpoint presentation.
      • but the ultimate source of the problem was corporate greed that lead to the collusion of government and a corporation,

        Oh, don't be stupid.

        Corporate greed has always existed in one form or another since the dawn of the human race. Greed is human nature. The utter utter stupidity is not to take it into account, and that's where free markets come in.

        You pit one greedy bastard against a dozen other greedy bastards. Everyone benefits from the hard work of the group of greedy bastards.

        The fault lies with the either utterly stupidity or corrupt politicians who granted the monopoly. It has nothing to do with libertarian ideology

        • You pit? I pit? Who pits?

          Thats the point.

          Who is the one not being greedy?

          Why is the government at fault for expressing what you say is 'human nature'?

          They're stupid for being greedy? Or they're stupid for not being greedy, but thinking SBC would not be greedy?

          Dipshits like you run the gamut from the frycook to the CEO; for some reason, you think its the referees fault when hes smacked over the head with a baseball bat.
        • "Corporate greed has always existed in one form or the other since the dawn of the human race"

          Funny how corporate greed existing long before coprorations did.

          (And, no, corporations are not human beings. Resulting in corporate greed that is much more pathological than a typical human's greed.)
      • The headline seems quite valid unless you're a fundamentalist market libertarian that can never find fault with a corporation since it's always the government's fault.
        Government granted and enforced monopolies are the opposite of free market libertarianism.

        What do you expect would happen when the government jails anyone who tries to compete? Yes, it is the government's fault.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sethawoolley (1005201)

          The headline seems quite valid unless you're a fundamentalist market libertarian that can never find fault with a corporation since it's always the government's fault.

          Government granted and enforced monopolies are the opposite of free market libertarianism.

          What do you expect would happen when the government jails anyone who tries to compete? Yes, it is the government's fault.

          That's an interesting point, but it doesn't really change the sentence that you're quoting, and I would take it a step further and make the point that Russ Beaton (econ professor at Willamette University) once made: "The best economies have no monopolies but the goal of every good enterprise is monopoly; therein lies the contradiction of unlimited capitalism.". The free-market libertarians in this thread are telling me that it's not SBC's fault that it bribed government officials and/or made back-room mon

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:22PM (#20364199)
    they hate black people.
    • by hxnwix (652290)

      they hate black people.
      No, say it like this: "Black people are good, but money is better." I'm sure AT&T would agree that it's true and non-offensive. I mean, they must agree with my views since they're letting me post this comment (like so many other unfortunates, I have a 12. address).
  • Monopolies are bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This shows why monopolies are bad and a more liberal economic policy is better
    • by sethawoolley (1005201) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:45PM (#20364457) Homepage

      This shows why monopolies are bad and a more liberal economic policy is better
      This shows why private monopolies and back-room arrangements are bad. Public monopolies (public utilities, private utilities with public reporting requirements, etc.) are not shown to be bad by this case.

      Liberal economic policies help in a lot of things, but utilities are one of the cases where it's an infrastructure investment that still is most efficiently done cooperatively, particularly since you have to deal with public rights-of-way and all that. Services on top of the infrastructure should be liberalized, of course.

      We really do need to get people to think beyond left and right more these days and more on what works best for the particular situation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by pete6677 (681676)
        Anyone who thinks publicly owned monopolies are not a bad thing has never been subjected to public transportation in Chicago.
    • In a place like South Africa, only a government regulated monopoly would be interested in providing telecom to a lot of very poor people with very poor credit rating. Free market companies would just walk away from that because it makes no business sense.
      • True enough. Any moral company would have taken one look at the situation, thanked the ANC for their time, and walked away. Telephones are a service, not a basic human right to be provided at the expense of others.
  • All Monopoly = Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fozzmeister (160968) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:27PM (#20364247) Homepage
    Well if you set up a monopoly it will be abused, you need very strong regulators to keep anything clean. Doesn't matter if its a state run monopoly (NHS, BT (before privatisation), British Rail etc) or a granted monopoly.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ExploHD (888637)
      That is a very broad argument in saying that all monopolies are bad. There are times when you have to have a monopoly such as the electricity you're getting or your local phone service (excluding VoIP, not everybody has broadband). You are correct in saying that strong regulation is needed. Without the regulation, prices would be much higher.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        As long as they are not allowed to make a profit, monopolies are fine. However, all for-profit monopolies are bad.

        Without competition to keep prices reasonable, government regulators have to walk a tightrope between trying to keep prices low and not causing the business to file Chapter 11, and when it comes to either a private company or a division of a larger public company, they really have only the company's word to go on.

        Two things can fix that: a new competitor entering the field and going for the

        • by Simon80 (874052)

          The second choice is, of course, for the government to spin off what amounts to a non-profit corporation to manage the infrastructure and write it into their charter that they can never post a profit. That forces all income to go towards improving the infrastructure or go back to the customers.
          Technically, the money can also go toward paying certain employees gratuitous amounts of money, if there isn't enough oversight.
      • by peragrin (659227)
        actually local phone service is the worst of the lot. in areas where one has a choice of providers they don't rape you over price. we pay nearly $40 a month in local phone service not in cluding long distance for just one line. My cell phone is only $40. all the long distance I want. VOIP service in our area is limited by the local cable company who trims bandwidth of users who arne't using there VOIP service, which is also $40 a month.

        Monopolies are always bad, even for electric producers. how can i
    • Well if you set up a monopoly it will be abused, you need very strong regulators to keep anything clean. Doesn't matter if its a state run monopoly (NHS, BT (before privatisation), British Rail etc) or a granted monopoly.
      or indeed if it is a monopoly (or near monopoly) that appears naturally through market forces.

      given that a monopoly is the likely outcome for last mile communication service (yes some areas have duopolies but that is due to the fact that pre-digitisation phone and TV had very different need
  • Song song, different tune. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man [amazon.com].
    Mediocre writing, interesting story though.
  • Don't blame SBC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by laing (303349) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:44PM (#20364441)
    You should blame the politicians who voted to allow the monopoly deal in the first place. Do you believe for one second that they did not know what they were doing?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by that IT girl (864406)
      Oh, you can definitely blame SBC. You have to blame the politicians too, but don't for one second try to say SBC's absolved of all guilt.
      • Yeah, you can blame SBC for taking maximal advantage of a market, but that's what they do. Everyone knows that. The government there let the fox into the hen house. The hen house didn't get left open by accident, rather the government invited the foxes in.

        Now, one can get all pissed that the fox ate the hens, but the government has the responsibility to look after the best interests of whatever its supposed to be looking after. Not only did the government fail in this case, they failed to such a degre
        • The people who run SBC are not foxes they are humans and thus are responsible for their behaviour. All the people involved in this scandal are complicit. How anyone can try to pretend that SBC is blameless in this is a dogmatist of the worst kind.
    • by cHALiTO (101461)
      They should blame both
  • by Swervin (836962) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:45PM (#20364453)
    As much as I hate government interferance in business, if you're going to have a government granted monopoly you should have government set prices.
  • A Monopoly (Score:5, Informative)

    by kwiqsilver (585008) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:52PM (#20364487)

    A company with a "government granted" monopoly abused it. Shocking!

    Incidentally, any true monopoly must be government granted. Without the government's force to keep competition away, it's merely a really effective competitor in an open market, like Wal-Mart.

    A monopoly, whether government owned (e.g. the US Post Office) or government granted (e.g. AT&T and the Baby Bells in the US, before cellphones, cable company phone service, etc.), is not required to innovate and improve to retain customers, like a free-market business is. Because of this they will tend to deliver a lower quality product at a higher price.

    • Incidentally, any true monopoly must be government granted. Without the government's force to keep competition away, it's merely a really effective competitor in an open market, like Wal-Mart.

      Read up on Standard Oil [wikipedia.org] or other classic antitrust cases sometime.

      In other words, another means besides government grant to have a monopoly is to achieve the end through illegal means.

      • Read it a little more throughly. Standard Oil was a small-shit monopoly (pre-automotive, less than 1% of GDP and about 1/3 the size of the shoe industry at their largest) and were on the verge of getting competed out of the market by the time the breakup went to trial. Without government coercion, monopolies only survive when they provide a better deal than whatever else is out there, and those companies do not justify government theft of property for doing what would be perfectly legal for any other busine
        • Without government coercion, monopolies only survive when they provide a better deal than whatever else is out there,...

          Natural monopolies are a troubling case, however. With or without government coercion, natural monopolies will tend to exist at some regional level, due to some structural reason regarding infrastructural investment costs. There is less of a case for this these days for telecoms, where one can argue that land line, cable-phone, cellular, an emerging wifi all represent means by which non-e
          • California has passed laws greatly opening up the cable market (removing the requirement of negotiating and paying extortion money to each of the municipalities they serve (the REAL "infrastructure cost")), but they've only been on the books about a year at this point. Right now, I'd just say give it a little bit. As for satellite, I've got it at home, and it's generally about as nice as the cable out here in OK (my only point of contention for the longest time was the lack of local channels).
            • I am skeptical that this will have much of an effect. Any second cable provider would have to dig up the streets to run the line. This is very costly, and has already been amortized/paid for by the first cable provider's customers.

              I too have satellite. It is dismayingly similar to cable. A chip of the old block. Between cable and satellite, they show very little signs of behaving like a competitive market, and much more like a tacitly collusive one.

              C//
    • by hxnwix (652290)

      Without the government's force to keep competition away, it's merely a really effective competitor in an open market, like Wal-Mart.

      Of course - and when one company bides its time as it expands until it can afford to drop its prices one area while still profiting in others, it can force smaller competitors out of business. Then it can raise prices - at least until small competitors appear in certain regions, requiring temporary price drops.

      But you already know all of this, and love it too! Congratulations, I'm sure it's great getting fucked up the ass!

      • So, in other words, to continue to grow, it has to continue providing value to its customers, and to remain a monopoly, it has to *compete* with its potential competitors.
    • by Tom (822)

      Incidentally, any true monopoly must be government granted.
      Not true, go back to university. There are so-called natural monopolies. There are also local monopolies especially in small, geographically isolated markets. Finally, there are markets that have successfully been cornered and where the difference between monopoly and oligopoly is purely academic.
    • A monopoly, whether government owned (e.g. the US Post Office) or government granted (e.g. AT&T and the Baby Bells in the US, before cellphones, cable company phone service, etc.), is not required to innovate and improve to retain customers, like a free-market business is. Because of this they will tend to deliver a lower quality product at a higher price

      Will tend to.

      Still, in the case of mail, I don't know of any company that can even come close to the price of USPS for what they do. Most of the time,
      • Is that counting or not counting the other part of the price? You know, the one taken out of every paycheck you make?
    • by demachina (71715)
      "is not required to innovate"

      In ATT's defense they did bankroll Bell Labs, which was one of the bigger sources of innovation in this country during its heyday. Not sure exactly how much of a font of innovation it is today when it doesn't have the monopoly to bankroll it.

      When companies are facing stiff competition they can react in many different ways. One is they can try to innovate to be better than their competition so they invest in a lot in R&D, but R&D is risky and doesn't always pay off. Th
  • Then put the blame where it belongs -- with the South African government, who let this situation continue for many years to the determent of the people who elected them. Or maybe it benefited the people who elected them, to the detriment of everyone else.

    To the SA people, you got the government you elected, so blame yourselves, then fix the problem at the ballot box!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      P.S. Blaming big business for acting big business is like blaming a rattlesnake for biting you. They're doing exactly what's expected of them, and you're a fool if you think they are supposed to care more about you than their shareholders, and maybe employees. That's why you elect a government and give them the power to enforce oversight in your best interests.
      • by blitz487 (606553)
        You're also a fool if you believe that government employees intrinsically care about you and your interests. Give them any power, and they'll inevitably abuse that power for their own personal interests. That's why government power needs to be extremely limited, with plenty of checks and balances.
      • by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @04:00PM (#20365087)
        A rattlesnake will bite you because it is afraid and feeling threatened. Business will screw you over because of greed.

        Please do not insult rattlesnakes by comparing them to telco execs. There is no comparison.
      • by bit01 (644603) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @04:54PM (#20365567)

        They're doing exactly what's expected of them, and you're a fool if you think they are supposed to care more about you than their shareholders, and maybe employees.

        You're a fool if you think unethical behaviour is somehow okay simply because they make money from it. I and many others expect them to act ethically.

        They are "supposed" to do (whatever that means) whatever is in my and everybody else's best interests. Personally I want to live in a ethical society and will do everything in my power to penalize and control unethical companies. Most people think likewise.

        ---

        Monopolies = Industrial feudalism

    • by polar red (215081)

      To the SA people, you got the government you elected, so blame yourselves, then fix the problem at the ballot box!
      Heh, if they have the choice between a turd sandwich or a giant douche, and neglect to see there's other parties (like in the US) ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrL1nX (798019)
      Heh... the only problem with that is the fact that the vast majority of our people are afraid of change from the ANC to another party. I guess mostly because they are afraid of another Apartheid. However they must realise that our current government pretty much sucks in a lot of ways and maybe a change is needed to make our country stronger and healthier. Or maybe the ANC could start actually doing something for us.. Our internet here isn't great at all.. With 1Mbps - 4Mbps ADSL being the latest thing comi
  • by PhyrricVictory (773671) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @03:33PM (#20364853) Homepage
    Pillaged is such a harsh word. I prefer the phrases "shareholder value" and "market economy".
  • by krou (1027572) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @03:37PM (#20364893)

    ... I have to say that Telkom is absolutely terrible. Have a look here [hellkom.co.za] for more info.

    Telkom have consistently been a stumbling block to technological progress in the country, especially with regards to internet access. Telkom owns all the international links to the rest of the world from SA, and most of the bandwidth and international calls have to be routed through them. In fact, the price of ADSL has been so prohibitive that many individuals have pursued cellular alternatives, paying per MB, for light browsing instead.

    While it's easy to criticise the private companies who have been managing it, Telkom is a parastatal, and not wholly private; roughly 39% is still owned by the South African government, so I'm fairly certain they weren't too unhappy about the affair. There has been evidence of cronyism at the company, too, most likely as a direct result of this: in 2004 a government pension fund [bbc.co.uk] was used "to buy telecoms shares for a group of former government officials". This was part of the government's Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) requirements that firms need to be 1/4 black owned before 2010, and falls within a pattern shown [csmonitor.com], by 2004 government surveys, that "68 percent of BEE deals went to just 6 black-owned businesses, all of which were owned by top members of the ANC party."

    The whole thing stinks, and Saffas get screwed, as usual.

    • by Kazzahdrane (882423) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @05:47PM (#20366063)
      I hear ya, my mother is from SA and so I've been there many times over the last 21 years. Biggest change apart from the race-related ones that I've seen is how much you guys use your cellphones. I was visiting a cousin while she was in hospital in Jo'burg and remarked that back home (UK) they don't allow cellphones to be turned on in hospitals - let alone used 24/7. She stated flatly that they'd never be able to do that in SA, people seem to be surgically attached to them. But with Telkom's charges it's not hard to see why.
  • the "government granted monopoly" bit. Shouldn't South Africa try blaming itself, first?
  • Big companies acting in a predatory manner, you can always be assured that a country will be subverted into a position that they cannot get out of without gutting their economy. Take a look at AUS, NZ, and now SA.

    Take a look at our own telecom infrastructure. You can see where communities are in various stages to set up their own broadband structure and the telecoms are not liking it one bit. Several towns have been pretty much abandoned by their ILECs to rot on their old copper, or worse.

    Gov't MUST keep a
  • "Telkom [was tasked with] connect[ing] the large parts of South Africa that had been neglected under apartheid. ...Instead ...raised Telkom's prices to be among the highest in the world."

    So a company that had to build a bunch of new infrastructure to places likely to have a low volume of subscribers to subsidize said infrastructure has high prices. How is this surprising exactly?

    That said, I have no doubt there was some ripping off done; I've never experienced an honest telco. But giving them a monop

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @04:09PM (#20365167)
    OK, on one hand, monopolies almost always abuse their power. Some actually run OK and are good for a society (public utilities like electric and gas are good examples.) I'm actually a proponent of the old-style Bell system for local phone access -- you deal with a single company who sets all the standards and keeps the network running well. The trade-off, of course, is innovation. Or so people claim.

    The other side of the coin is also prevalent in telecom and other industries -- companies with a psycho executive board that has no concept of the time beyond next quarter. Too often, we hear stories of executives laying off a percentage of the workforce just to make the numbers that year. Or outsourcing things like IT or customer service because some MBA told them that these aren't "core competencies.' Try getting broadband service out of the telecom companies if you live out in the middle of nowhere, for example...it's not easy. No profit-oriented company wants to support it. This was part of the reason the phone monopoly existed, and why you still pay universal service fees on common-carrier service.

    So, monopoly = bad. Unchecked competition = bad. Now what?? I would argue that #2 is better in a perfect world as long as we can reduce the focus on short-term gains. However, now that absolutely everyone is counting on the stock market/casino for their retirement, I can't see that happening. Because of that, #1 is still sometimes the best choice in our imperfect, corrupt world.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      monopoly = bad. Unchecked competition = bad.

      I'm going to have to argue that point a bit: It depends a lot on the market you're talking about whether monopolies are necessarily bad or unchecked competition is necessarily bad. The reason for this is that some products are far easier to produce on a large scale, and others on a small scale. For instance, beer is far better produced on a small scale than a large one, while with cellular phones there's a huge advantage to being a large provider. When you have

  • by localman (111171) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @07:51PM (#20366841) Homepage
    I just spent some time working in the disadvantaged areas of South Africa, and so I've formed a bit of affection for the nation and its people. While on the face of it I think anyone messing with these developing nations as they try to get their footing is about a pure definition of evil as can be had, I'm not aware how much this one matters. I mean, fsck SBC -- of all the people I met in South Africa, not a one of the blacks had a home phone line. But on the other hand they did all have cell phones. Vodacom and MTN were the major players, and had achieved amazing penetration -- on par with US cell phone penetration, but in an area where people still live 3 generations in a tiny 2 bedroom home.

    The only serious downside to having no landlines was a lack of internet connectivity -- nothing fills the early internet dialup niche: there's no flat-fee land line plans, and cell phone internet access is fairly expensive (though cheaper than in the US, I believe). So very few people are connected to the internet if they're lucky enough to have a computer. That is unfortunate. But in the end the people I met are not seriously hampered by the situation. They're amazingly adaptable, cheerful, and texting like crazy :)

    Anyways; good luck to SA. I hope to go again some day.

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