Parents often say they'll do anything for their kids. Even so, you can see where Ma Bell would be feeling torn today.Thursday brought a fitting telecom milestone, as AT&T ( T) -- the giant whose 1984 breakup spawned the competitive telecommunications industry -- dropped out of the bellwether Dow Jones Industrial Average after 65 years. Replacing the New Jersey long-distance giant is its biggest offspring: the current top U.S. telco, Verizon ( VZ). Verizon's
AT&T, meanwhile, has failed to recover after being whipsawed by a series of unsuccessful strategic repositionings in the last decade. The problems started in the early 1990s with Bob Allen's ill-fated acquisition of hardware outfit NCR and continued through C. Michael Armstrong's multibillion-dollar cable buying spree. AT&T has since spun off numerous offshoot business ranging from NCR to Lucent ( LU), and in 2002 it sold the cable rollup to Comcast ( CMCSA) -- which promptly wrung huge efficiencies out of the once-lagging group. Ma Bell was quick to defend her relevance Thursday. "The fact remains that AT&T is one of the world's leading communications companies, and our unrivaled base of enterprise customers to whom we provide sophisticated networking services -- both domestically and globally -- make AT&T a bellwether of the U.S. economy," the company said in a statement.