Ma Bell and other large phone companies are pulling out of the local phone service market (and the DSL market too) following recent FCC rulings and the resulting higher prices for network access from the Bells. But help is on the way. The Meta Group says WiMax will give competing companies a viable path to offer voice and broadband services beginning in 2006. Capital costs per customer will be about $240 then, and drop to about $80 in 2008.
Of course, by that time, Verizon and SBC will have fiber optics to millions of homes, and Cox and Comcast will be offering very fast cable speeds. WiMax is promising, but I'm still not sure it's going to provide the direct competition needed to have substantial downward pressure on prices.