John Malone has seen the future — the telecommunications future, that is — and it belongs to the behemoths.Malone, president and CEO of Tele-Communications Inc., told a luncheon gathering of industry officials and policymakers Tuesday that the broadband services of tomorrow will be controlled by two or three major entities. They will offer “bundles” of entertainment and telephone services and nifty capabilities like real-time Yellow Pages, interactive news and videoconferencing. TCI aims to become one of those entities, a prospect aided by its recent alliance with Bell Atlantic. Little guy lost “The race is on to combine product and service offerings to achieve critical mass,” Malone said. “Unless he joins one of those bundles, the guy out there selling his lone service is going to have a very hard time.” Malone spoke to a gathering presented by the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and Intl. Studies, a bipartisan, non-profit public policy research institute. There will be aggressive competition until market shares are established, he said, along with strong pressures for mergers and strategic alliances. Regulators will be challenged to assure competition from entities able to gain market position against competing services. Tech-driven future The scenario, maybe a decade away, is being driven entirely by technology — specifically, the capability of digital to move virtually all information electronically, said the TCI topper. Malone was asked what the industry can do to avoid a bruising fight in Congress over the technology similar to the recent Cable Act. The solution, he said, is healthy competition so that the marketplace is self-regulated. “You can’t get real competition unless you have more than one provider in a community.”
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