The AT&T of today is a weak shadow of its former self. SBC is one of the powerhouses among the regional monopolies.
NY Times: SBC Said to Be in Talks to Buy AT&T. A deal, if reached, would be the final chapter in the 120-year history of AT&T, the first technological giant of the modern age and the original model for telecommunications companies worldwide. A deal would be a reunion of sorts, putting back together some of the largest pieces of the Ma Bell telephone monopoly, which was broken up in 1984.
This deal, by itself, wouldn't do much to disrupt the marketplace immediately. But it's a harbinger of trouble.
The worry is on the data side. Voice is already moving into the data sphere as VoIP, and will someday be seen as a small add-on to data.
SBC is one of the most arrogant of the "Baby" (!) Bells. But all of them, assisted by an FCC that has been determined to let the phone and cable duopoly control data access, are moving to throttle the most important competitive market of the future -- broadband -- by insisting on absolute control over the wires they've installed based on government-granted monopolies. This local duopoly makes other kinds of consolidation look tame.
Someday, wireless broadband could help. But competing wireless systems have to connect to backbones and their local nodes. If the Bells can take over the companies that provide such data access, they can be anticompetitive in new ways.
I predict a slew of deals like this, where the regional Bells take over the long-distance and backbone companies, with little regulatory concern. Then we'll be even deeper in the soup.