Roger Brown, Editor in Chief

For example, I still wonder how the two cultures will co-exist. Can AT&T shed its monopolistic legacy and actually become a communications company that thrives in a competitive world? Clearly, the company's leaders recognize that it must make that transition, but it's easier said than done.

And what about Cable Television Laboratories? It counts on TCI for about $2.5 million a year in annual dues. Given the size and vast R&D resources of a company like AT&T, how long will it continue to pony up that cash? I doubt CableLabs will be cut off at the knees, but CEO Richard Green must be prepared to lobby to keep the money flowing.

How will today's TCI employees be affected? We know that AT&T is highly unionized, and TCI has strenuously opposed unionization efforts. The Communications Workers of America has already had preliminary discussions with AT&T regarding the acquisition, and is looking forward to talking with TCI employees about joining their ranks.

In fact, as CED Associate Editor Mike Lafferty reports in our annual, exclusive Salary & System Survey, CWA has language in its contract with AT&T that allows the union unfettered access to companies the telecom giant acquires. That means TCI execs can't bash the union. It also means the union can't bash Malone over the billions of dollars he stands to make.

Looking at our survey results, it isn't necessarily easy to predict whether TCI personnel would choose to join the CWA. For the most part, survey respondents say they're generally satisfied with the wages they make (of course, there's nothing like the power of a national union to get you even more money).

But where the CWA can really shine is its focus on training. Most survey respondents said they feel overwhelmed when it comes to new information they have to keep track of. With new services like data, telephony and digital video being deployed, they feel swamped. The CWA contract with AT&T stipulates that everyone receives at least 40 hours per year in training on top of what the company normally provides its personnel. Who wouldn't want that?

The CWA intends to target specific TCI systems for unionization after the deal goes through. The cable industry's founding fathers are probably bristling at the notion that the industry appears headed toward fraternal organization, but it's a sign of just how large and important the industry has become. If it helps the industry gain more respect, I'm all for it. What do you think?