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Editorial: Cable needs competition for our sake and its own

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12/10/2017 | 07:36pm CET

Remember Ma Bell?

Officially, it was the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, and for decades it was one of the largest corporations in the world, employing a million people and providing phone service to most of the households in America, whether they liked it or not.

AT&T was a private company that acted like a small sovereign nation with its own rules and customs and – basically – was a law unto itself.

As a regulated monopoly, it delivered a certain standard of service, along with the equipment (you didn't buy your phone, you leased it from Ma Bell), what would now be called tech support and a certain sense of stability. AT&T had always been there – well, since the days of Alexander Graham Bell, anyway – and always would be.

But, to many people, the corporation also represented everything wrong with big business. It was notoriously bureaucratic, unresponsive and slow to innovate.

That all changed in 1984 when, to settle an anti-trust action brought by the U.S. Justice Department, AT&T was broken up into the regional "baby Bells" and competition was introduced into the telecommunications industry.

It was occasionally chaotic and disruptive, but ultimately beneficial for consumers, new technologies and society has a whole. Not too many people want to go back to the days of Ma Bell.

Unless, that is, you are a cable television company.

In many area communities, Attleboro among them, the local cable provider acts much as AT&T once did. It provides the service, owns the gear and pretty much determines what options its customers will get and for how much, because they are the only game in town.

But, as happened with telephones, change could be coming to cable TV.

According to Attleboro's mayor-elect, Paul Heroux, during his door-to-door campaign this fall, he found that the high cost of cable TV and the lack of choice was one of the top complaints of voters.

Now, he says, a top priority of his administration, starting Jan. 2, will be to encourage another cable company to come into Attleboro.

It may not be an easy task. Cable companies, for a variety of reasons, are reluctant to enter into head-to-head competition in particular markets.

And, for their part, cable companies argue that they already face substantial competition from satellite dish companies and other providers. That, they say, drives them to innovate and keep their costs down.

But if they really want to win the hearts and minds – and a share of their entertainment budget – from local consumers they should start listening to their complaints and giving them what they say they want – genuine choice in cable television services.

Or they could continue to follow the business model of Ma Bell.

© Copyright, 2017, The Sun Chronicle. All Rights Reserved., source Newspapers

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Financials ($)
Sales 2017 160 B
EBIT 2017 27 825 M
Net income 2017 13 742 M
Debt 2017 114 B
Yield 2017 5,36%
P/E ratio 2017 16,22
P/E ratio 2018 14,87
EV / Sales 2017 2,12x
EV / Sales 2018 2,09x
Capitalization 225 B
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AT&T Technical Analysis Chart | T | US00206R1023 | 4-Traders
Technical analysis trends AT&T
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Income Statement Evolution
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Mean consensus OUTPERFORM
Number of Analysts 30
Average target price 39,4 $
Spread / Average Target 7,3%
EPS Revisions
Managers
NameTitle
Randall L. Stephenson Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer
John J. Stephens Chief Financial & Principal Accounting Officer
Joyce M. Roché Independent Director
Laura D'Andrea Tyson Independent Director
Matthew K. Rose Lead Independent Director
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