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Ed, Dick and Tony
By Dan O'Shea

Jun 11, 2007 4:23 PM

SPOILER ALERT: This column refers to elements of the final episode of “The Sopranos” that die-hard fans who TiVo’d it to watch later will not want to hear. Though, if you’re a real fan, why didn’t you watch it live?

People are sadistic. I’m surprised by the number of people I’ve talked to who were disappointed the whole Soprano family (and I mean family in two contexts) didn’t get whacked on the final episode. Phil Leotardo’s culminating indignity, probably one of the most inventive moments of unseen violence ever on prime-time TV, wasn’t enough.

There are those who will disagree, but I liked this episode because of how vulnerable all the characters end up being—basically proxies for Americans who are trying to cling to the past, a past that itself is barely still connected to an immigrant dream, while their immediate world rapidly continues to grow smaller and to slip away from their control.

If those same fans hung around to watch the premiere of “John From Cincinnati,” they were in for more bewilderment, as a man-child who may be an alien or a guardian angel, kept repeating “the end is near.”

That might be how longtime telco employees are feeling these days as they discuss the departure of not just one career Bell company man—Edward Whitacre, who retired from AT&T last week—but two. Richard Notebaert, who spent the last few years leading Qwest back from hard times, and held the top office at Ameritech, announced his retirement today.

In my 15 years at Telephony, Notebaert and Whitacre embodied the rich tradition of the Bell companies. But, their moves and intentions in recent years also indicated the future of these companies as they changed through consolidation to pursue the rich possibilities of a new era. Whitacre’s retirement, Notebaert’s looming retirement and the retirement within the last year of Duane Ackerman from BellSouth when its acquisition by AT&T came to fruition, leave telecom largest, oldest service providers, may mark the end of one era and the beginning of another.

It’s an era in which the previous market leaders are guaranteed nothing, and the ability to combine and converge services may mean everything. So, this week and next week at NXTcomm, let’s follow Tony Soprano’s advice to remember the good times, but then let’s get to work. The end is not near, only the beginning of something new.

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