08 January 2020
On this day in 1982, the Department of Justice concluded two monumental antitrust cases. American Telephone & Telegraph agreed to sell its 23 local telephone companies – about two-thirds of its assets – to settle claims it had monopolised a variety of telecommunications services and equipment in violation of federal antitrust law. The same day, the agency dropped its 13-year lawsuit against International Business Machines in which it had alleged monopolisation of “interstate trade and commerce in general purpose digital computers”. Then-assistant attorney general William Baxter said the IBM case was “without merit” and “very weak”. Corded-phones and IBM’s personal computers have since been surpassed, but there will always be new technology-based competitive landscapes to sort out – such as blockchain. And as it happens, IBM is on that.