The first annual SOFA (Shooting Oneself in the Foot Award)

Our inaugural SOFA goes to AT&T. Yes AT&T, one of the world’s leaders in the implementation of telecommuting in the 1980s and 1990s, is now described as calling back the teletroops, according to an article in Network World. Many of AT&T’s telecommuters must now go back to the traditional office and traffic jams. It appears, no surprise to those following the history of the telcom’s, that SBC (the latest owner of AT&T) in it’s wisdom has decided, once again, to rid the world of these newfangled means for improving productivity, saving energy, reducing the rate of global warming, and otherwise enhancing the company’s bottom line.

Now suppose that you are the CEO of a major company that has just acquired a treasure trove of talent, resources, and capital. Would you act to improve and expand those riches? Or would you try to mold those resources into a model that, while possibly appropriate in the 19th century, is way out of date in this one? SBC/AT&T seems to prefer the latter option. Let’s see, using this weird new technique called telecommuting I can save $30 million annually in office space, increase productivity by $150 million, do my corporate bit for environment improvement, energy reduction and global warming abatement—all of which has been demonstrated for years by the pre-SBC AT&T. Should I keep it up? Nah, too risky, thinks the SBC CEO. Even though the rest of the world is steadily adopting telework, we’ll stick to what worked fifty years ago. SBC even casts a jaundiced eye on any form of on-line communication, I’m told.

By the way, I wrote “once again” earlier in this note because SBC followed a similar route when it took over Pacific Bell a few years ago. PacBell had a growing telecommuting program, both as a marketing tool and for its own employees. That came to a screeching halt after the SBC takeover. SBC/AT&T is doing it all over, apparently, extolling the virtues of network services while eroding access to them by its own employees. Their motto should be: “We just sell it; we don’t use it!”

I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the SOFA than AT&T Lite.

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