Evan Smith: How do you feel coming out of a legislative session in which SBC sought so much and got so little?
Edward E. Whitacre Jr.: It’s a huge disappointment. Our industry has changed. Technology has changed. We have so many more competitors—cable companies are providing telephone service big-time. And they’re not regulated [by the state]. Nobody tells them every move to make. They don’t report to anybody. I don’t think it’s right to continue to be as regulated as we are when our competitors are not regulated at all.
ES: Why did you fall short?
EW: I’ve asked myself that question thousands of times. There’s some inertia. It’s always easier to defeat something than it is to pass it. And we have worthy adversaries who don’t want to change things. I don’t think they played unfair, but it’s frustrating. We’re on the logical side of this. If you asked the average person on the street, he would agree with us that less regulation is good for the state.
ES: You also asked the Legislature to let you provide video service over your existing wires, which would have put you in competition with those same cable companies. What would the practical effect have been for the average Texan?
EW: More choice. And that would be good, because I’ve been a cable company customer, and I’ve seen my bill go up 5, 6, 7 percent every February. They have no competition, and I don’t think that’s right. While they, in turn, compete against us. They’ve really got the best of both worlds: They’ve got a monopoly, and