It's either a historically brilliant move in telecommunications history or another widening of the hole through which Deep South support for Republicans and the Bush administration may drain.
The announcement that AT&T would seek to purchase BellSouth, formerly Southern Bell and part of the monopolistic Bell system of years ago, came as no surprise to industry insiders.
For those who follow the industry on a more casual basis, it was a shock. The implications of the deal, which would make AT&T the dominant force in telecommunications once again, are many.
For starters, BellSouth, which has been an economic and civic cornerstone in major cities like Atlanta, Jacksonville and Birmingham, will cease to exist. That means the end of many jobs, not to mention the company's participation in local philanthropic efforts and the prestige of these and other cities hosting a southeastern-based telecommunications giant.
Paint it as you will, fire up the smoke and mirrors, but every experience in the past suggests there will be a trail of tears, primarily dampening the soil of the southeast, following this mega-deal.
From a shareholder's standpoint, it may make complete sense. Texas-based AT&T, an aggressive rework of the remnants of the ravaged original combined with other telecommunications companies, has emerged a potentially successful telecommunications giant.
BellSouth, which had all the advantages over its rivals just a few years ago, sat by as a sleeping giant, allowing others to gain ground. Now its top management is enjoying the cream from the deal -- the success of other companies, absorbed in a glorious new purchase price.
But what of customers? Workers?
Customers will likely suffer little denigration, given the fact that both BellSouth and its much-celebrated joint wireless venture with AT&T, Cingular, are already notorious for poor customer service and disorganization.
I, personally, would rather have a root canal than enter a Cingular store to try to exchange, upgrade or even cancel my long-standing agreement, which guarantees me continually dropped signals and poor customer service. Make that pitiful customer service -- confused, delayed and often downright surly.
(Think this is just my opinion? There are reams of marketing research that back my claim. Not to mention the endless anecdotal complaints many of us hear from those who must suffer Cingular's service system.)