Let’s put this “AT&T could have owned the entire internet” idea to rest. No f—ing way it could have happened.
Case study A: On my first day working at AT&T (1990), I was required to to watch a 30-minute training video that explained that making personal phone calls from work was stealing.
It warned that it would be a PR nightmare to have a newspaper headline like “AT&T employees are making free phone calls from work!”
A company that makes training videos like that is not the kind of company that can innovate beyond “manage more minutes”.
Case study B: ARPA originally was going to skip the competitive bid process and just give the ARPANet project to AT&T in the 1960s. AT&T rejected it because circuit-based networks are awesome and packet-based networks could never possibly work. So the competitive bid went out and BBN et al won. (Citation needed)
Case study C: In 1971, ARPA tried to give AT&T the internet for free. They rejected it. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/vvv3qy/remember-that-time-at-t-almost-bought-the-internet
Case study D: AT&T ACS… the failed attempt to invent an internet replacement: https://talkingpointz.com/how-bell-missed-the-internet-1/
Case study E: 1994-ish: AT&T bands together with Lotus and Novell to create a B2B network better than the internet.
They tell people to ignore the internet because it is stupid and run by hippies but they can’t figure out why people don’t want to wait for their product which will only run on Lotus Notes, on AT&T’s T1 lines, requires Novell IPX instead of TCP/IP, and won’t ship for a few years. https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/29/business/at-t-plans-to-discontinue-network-notes.html
Case study F: In 1994ish AT&T management was facinated by the concept of “fat bits”… figuring out a way to charge more money when the data being transmitted was more valuable.. whatever that means. Video? Pictures of art work? They didn’t like my joke that they should charge more for 1 bits and give the 0 bits away for free.
Executives that express such a lack of understanding about data communications are not going to “own the internet”.
Case study G: In the mid-1990s AT&T realized they blew it and… I can’t tell that story yet but I’m trying to get a friend who was directly involved to do an oral history. (Pat… if you read this, please contact me!)
Case study H: In 1996 AT&T tried to steal the internet. Here’s how they tried and failed: https://www.wired.com/1996/10/atm-3/ The internet literally saved by Sean Doran.
AT&T went out of business before they could figure out what the fuck the internet is. Wait… you say AT&T is still in business? I disagree. In 2004 they sold off mobile to Cingular. By 2005 AT&T was so dead that SBC purchased it so they could use the name. PR magic assured customers wouldn’t notice. SBC executives run the show now and that reveals a lot more than the name.