MCI WorldCom chief operating officer John Sidgmore's keynote speech here at ComNet last week continued the theme running through this trade show that the Internet changes everything. At MCI WorldCom, Sidgmore explained, taking advantage of the Internet has been the reason behind the telecommunications giant's relentless growth in the past few years.
The company known today as MCI WorldCom has made 68 acquisitions in the past four years, Sidgmore told the audience, and has been busy deploying facilities -- including undersea cables -- as fast as it can during that time period.
The goal driving this growth is bundled services; MCI WorldCom wants to be able to offer local, long-distance, wireless, and Internet services to customers on one bill and on its own facilities.
"We don't want to have to pass off [a connection] to our competitors; we want to do it all on our own facilities," Sidgmore said. "That is the vision. Controlling your own facilities is the key to innovation."
And the reason why the company wants to own the facilities that its services run on is to be able to offer customers the best of the Internet.
"We're making all of these things happen because we've bet the ranch on the Internet," Sidgmore said.
Key to the Internet's growth going forward will be the availability of broadband services, Sidgmore continued. Along that vein, MCI WorldCom late in 1998 launched Digital Subscriber Line services, currently offered in 400 cities with plans to grow to 1000 cities by year's end, he said.
"But to achieve truly ubiquitous (Internet) access, the world needs to have unfettered access to end users' wires and cables, which are currently controlled by RBOCs (Regional Bell operating companies) and cable companies," Sidgmore said.
The executive said that in order to alleviate this problem, services must be unbundled from the infrastructure they run on, meaning that the company that owns, for example, the cables that run into each home should not be the only company that offers the related services. Sidgmore suggested one scenario to get around this problem -- the RBOCs and cable companies would each split into two separate organisations; one that owns the wires and cables and sells access to service providers, and another that becomes one of the service providers that buys that access and sells its services to end users.
"This might even be good for the RBOCs (and cable companies) because they would make money" by selling access, Sidgmore said. A large percentage of profit made by UUNet, which is the country's largest ISP and is owned by MCI WorldCom, has been by selling access to other ISPs, he said.
Despite these goals for speedy and ubiquitous access to the Internet, pricing will continue to be a sticking point in certain situations, Sidgmore warned.
"The world believes that Internet access should be really cheap, and broadband should be a part of that. But the math doesn't work -- it's not going to (always) be cheap," Sidgmore said. For example, access to local content will not be pricey, but providers will not be able to offer 2Mbps constant access available from Denver to Frankfurt, Germany, for $11 per month, he said.
"(Microsoft chairman) Bill Gates thinks bandwidth should be free. We think software should be free," Sidgmore joked.