Dial M for Monaco
EUROPEANS should welcome - guardedly - news that two high- profile ''names'' are breaking into the monopoly long-distance phone market on their continent.
The names: billionaire investment legend George Soros and Prince Albert of Monaco. Their vehicle into the phone service business: a joint venture between a telecommunications firm partly owned by Soros, and Monaco's phone company, owned by the Monegasque royal family.
This new firm in tiny Monaco will target the giant telecom monopolies of Europe - principally France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom. Albert is said to feel that telecommunications are the key to his principality's future. That's a good bet (excuse the pun) - a more dependable source of revenue and jobs than casinos, film festivals, stamps, and mooring fees.
As those who watch America know, phone competition rewards consumers but unsettles jobholders.
France's phone monopoly employs 5.5 times as many people as inhabit Monaco - and occupies far more than that nation's 368 acres. The first effect of competition with the big telecoms will be lower prices for cellular-phone firms and cable-TV distributors. This should seep into lower bills for consumers of those services. Eventually, competition should cut telephone bills as well. And, in the next century, the expectation in Europe as well as North America and Pacific Asia is for one-wire homes - that is, firms providing telephone, computer-net, cable, and event/movie-on-demand service.
In the US the big brouhaha over AT&T's announcement of 40,000 job cuts has subsided somewhat since that figure was revised downward and the public realized that equal or greater numbers of new jobs are being created in the communications industry.
European jobless rates are almost twice that of the US. So reassurance about new-job creation is even more needed. But in the end the most salient fact is that lower prices will bring more spending - and therefore more jobs - throughout the economy.