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Rewired And Ready For Combat

SBC and Verizon are spending billions to stay competitive in the broadband era

Editor's note: The Justice Dept. on Oct. 27 gave a green light to Verizon's planned purchase of MCI and SBC's proposed AT&T acquisition on the condition that each divest certain fiber-optic network connections. The Federal Communications Commission on Oct. 28 postponed a decision on whether to clear the deals.

On a crisp September afternoon, Edward E. Whitacre Jr. bursts into a conference room on the 13th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago. The CEO of SBC Communications Inc. (SBC ) is taking a break from a meeting with his board of directors, and he's in an upbeat mood. The 6-foot, 4-inch exec is a big football fan, and his alma mater, Texas Tech, is undefeated. "Undefeated!" he says. "Although I don't think we can keep winning 80 to nothing." (The final tally against Sam Houston State had actually been 80-21.)