TeleTruth: The Alliance for Customers' Telecommunications Rights
Take Action News & Initiatives DSL Headaches About TeleTruth
Join! The History Phone Outrage New Networks
  History of the Bells
see also   Who are the Baby Bells?   Map of the Baby Bells
up ^

(from "The Unathorized Bio of the Baby Bells & Info-Scandal" updated December 2001)

For over 100 years, Ma Bell, sometimes called the "Bell System" sometimes called "AT&T", controlled almost all telecommunications in the US. Once the largest company in the world with over one million employees, the company consisted of 22 local Bell companies, (including New York Telephone and Ohio Bell), AT&T Long Lines, (the long distance division) as well as Western Electric, (the subsidiary that manufactured telephone equipment) and Bell Labs, one of the premier research organizations.

Then in 1984, because of the monopoly control the company had over phone service, the company was broken-up and the local Bell phone companies were divvied up among seven, artificially created, very large companies called "Regional Bell Operating Companies" (RBOCs, pronounced "R-BOKS") or sometimes the "Regional Bell Holding Companies" (RHC) and sometimes "The Baby Bells".

Please note: AT&T no longer has any ownership relationship with the Bell companies. However, in our 1993 consumer survey, we found that about 1/4 of the population thought that AT&T still owned the Bell companies. Meanwhile 5% still call the companies "Ma Bell", or the "Bell Company".

Each company controls specific geographic regions of the US. For example, Ameritech controlled a five-state region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This diagram gives the original Baby Bells, the phone company(s) it controlled, and the state(s).

Today, because of numerous mergers, there are only 4 Bells:
  • BellSouth
  • SBC Communications, which owns Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell, Ameritech, SNET
  • Verizon, which owns Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, and GTE
  • Qwest, which now owns US West
However, there is mass confusion on the part of the customers, not only because of these mergers, but also because of the various name changes.
What's in a Name? Renaming the Local Phone Companies

Over the last seven years, all of the holding companies removed the local Bell name for the name of the holding company.

  • New York Telephone became NYNEX, then Bell Atlantic and the Verizon.
  • Ohio Bell, Indiana Bell, Wisconsin Bell, Michigan Bell and Illinois Bell were all renamed "Ameritech"
Hundreds of Companies with RBOC Name

The holding companies own literally hundreds of other companies, each with their name-brand.For example, here are just a few of the NYNEX companies:

  • NYNEX Entertainment & Information Services Company
  • NYNEX Asset Management Company, NYNEX Credit Company
  • NYNEX Capital Funding Company
  • NYNEX Trade Finance Company. (source: NYNEX 3rd Q, 1997)
Mergers and More Renaming

In 1997, two Bells purchased two other Bells, making a new total of five companies.

  • Bell Atlantic & NYNEX -- All NYNEX states were renamed Bell Atlantic.
  • SBC Communications (formerly Southwestern Bell) & Pacific Telesis

In the law few years, there have been even more changes:

  • SBC Communications purchased SNET and Ameritech
  • Bell Atlantic and NYNEX changed their name to Verizon, and purchased GTE
  • US West became Qwest
Two Bell Companies Escaped
  Cincinnati Bell and Southern New England Telephone (SNET) were both spun off after the break-up. However, SNET was recently aquired by SBC Communications.
Other Local Companies
  There were over 1,400 other local phone companies in 1984, including United/Sprint, Lincoln Telephone or Rochester Telephone (renamed Frontier). However, the number of independent companies has been diminishing For example, GTE was the largest independent and was the size of one of the original Bell companies. It was also a holding company, owning numerous local telephone properties throughout the US, from California to Virginia. As mentioned earlier, it is now part of Verizon.
Thousands of Other Telephone Companies
  There are literally thousands of communications companies, and their relationships and services they offer are at best, fuzzy to the general public. Here's the basics:
Big Difference --- Local Vs Long Distance Companies
  A "Long Distance" phone call crosses state Lines. A call from New York to New Jersey or Texas to Arkansas are long distance. Every other call is either a local call, which is usually 10 miles near your home or office or a Toll call. AT&T and MCI today are mostly long distance companies, offering long distance calling, while the Bells are local phone companies, and are only starting to offer long distance services. So far, only five states have given the companies permission, because they have not fulfilled their requirements to first open their networks to competition. We argue that the Bells should never have been allowed into long distance services, for a number of good reasons, including the documented harm to competitors.

Long Distance Resellers

Hundreds of companies 'resell' long distance services; i.e., the company purchases services from AT&T or MCI in bulk and then "resells' the service, usually nationally, with their own name brand on it.

Other Important Distinctions: Local Competitors

CAPS (Competitive Access Providers) also called CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Companies)

There is another growing group of companies referred to as CAPs, who also offer local telephone service. . Some companies have their own installations, including Mc Cleod USA, Allegiance Telecom, and Focal. . Most companies only offer local business services in selected area codes in America.

  D-LECS and B-LECs

There are other types of local competitors: For example, the D-LECs (shorthand for Data-CLEC) offer primarily data or DSL services, such as Covad or Rhythms, while the B-LECs (shorthand for Building-CLEC) offer services by wiring buildings, such as ARC.


"Wireless," "PCS", "Cellular" and "Pay Phones"

There are thousands of other companies who offer a wide array of non-wireline services, such as the wireless, PCS, or cellular companies. Also, numerous companies offer independent pay-phone services.

The bottom line however is that the Bell companies own the wire into customer's homes and offices, and therefore they are a monopoly on local phone services. All competitors have to attach to their networks to offer local phone services.



up ^    
| take action | news and initiatives | the history | about TeleTruth | donate |
|contact us| telephone outrage | dsl headaches | home |
© 2002, TeleTruth
email us: