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People Then & Now

THEN: U.S. District Court Judge Harold H. Greene was just a few years past presiding over the antitrust suit that broke up the AT&T monopoly. The case was one of Greenes first after being named to the bench.

NOW: Judge Greene, who stopped hearing cases in 1998 and died in 2000, always will be remembered for his role in the AT&T divestiture an event that he said, in a 1996 interview published in the Bar Report, has proven to be of great benefit to American business, to the economy and to American life in general, because it brought competition to the telecommunications industry.

THEN: MCI Chairman William G. McGowan underwent a heart transplant in 1987. After a six-month recovery, he returned to his post as chairman until his death in 1992. During his tenure at MCI, the company grew from startup to $9.5 billion and had 16 percent of the American domestic and international long-distance market.

NOW: McGowan, through his role with MCI, played a key role in the breakup of the Bell System. Following MCIs 1974 lawsuit against AT&T, McGowan cooperated with the U.S. DoJ to bring about a 1982 agreement that led to the divestiture of AT&T.

THEN: Computer scientist Vinton Cerf, who led the development of the TCP/IP protocols and the Internet during his time with DARPA, had just left MCI after engineering MCI Mail, the first commercial e-mail service connected to the Internet.

NOW: Today, the decorated father of the Internet is vice president and chief Internet evangelist for leading search engine Google Inc., a post he has held since September 2005. He also is working on the Interplanetary Internet, together with NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to develop a way to communicate from planet to planet using radio/laser communications.

THEN: Bernie Ebbers was CEO for Mississippi-based long-distance reseller Long Distance Discount Service (LDDS), which in 1995 became WorldCom Inc. The companys legendary buying spree 65 transactions since the company was created in 1983 including the $40 billion merger with MCI in 1997.

NOW: Ebbers is serving a 25-year prison sentence for an $11 billion accounting fraud that caused his company, WorldCom Inc., to file the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. In 2005, he was convicted of nine counts of fraud, conspiracy and making false filings with regulators.

THEN: Roy A. Wilkens was president of Williams Telecommunications Co. (WilTel) in 1987 and was beginning to be vindicated for his gutsy decision as president of Williams Pipeline Co. to use the companys gas rights of way for fiber-optic telecommunications. The company was sold in 1995 to LDDS (MCI/WorldCom).

NOW: Wilkens is retired, sort of. He serves as honorary chairman of the board of a new company called Adaptation Technologies, which is run by his two sons and provides hosted VoIP services. In the intervening years, he retired as vice chairman of MCI/WorldCom and, among many roles, sat on the board of the reborn Williams Communications (renamed WilTel in 2002), which was sold to Level 3 in 2005.

THEN: In 1987, Carl Grivner was vice president of national sales at Ameritech, which was one of the newly created seven Baby Bell companies. It operated in five states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

NOW: He is CEO of XO Communications Inc., the countrys largest CLEC operating in 75 markets nationwide. XO has 4,800 employees and nearly $1.5 billion in annual revenue. The biggest changes have come as a result of the explosion of wireless and the advent of the Internet and IP-based communications, he says. These two forces, which didnt exist 20 years ago, are allowing people to communicate and conduct commerce from anywhere.

THEN: Matthew Flanigan was president of Cognitronics, a maker of central office equipment to replace operators. He also was a board member of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Back then was shortly after the breakup of the old Bell System, Flanigan recalls. It was about trying to get more competition for basic telephone service.

NOW: Flanigan retired as president of TIA on Dec. 31, 2006, but is staying on in a consultative role to advise his successor. He also will add a few more board seats to his resume, he says. The big thing today is consumers have a choice in getting voice, video and data from many providers wireline, wireless, cable and broadband over powerline, he says. The consumer truly has a choice that 20 years ago he didnt have.


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