The history of the PSTN is mostly the history of American Bell and AT&T. Here is a very brief timeline:

  • 1875
    • Alexander Bell forms American Bell
  • 1876
  • 1878
    • First telephone exchange is built in New Haven, Connecticut.
    • First switchboard (and switchboard operator) in New Haven, CT.
    • The first telephone in the White House is installed.
  • 1882
    • American Bell aquires controlling interest in Western Electric power company.
    • Western Electric Company becomes the manufacturing arm of American Bell
  • 1884
    • AT&T is incorporated as a subsidiary of American Bell
    • Bell Telephone creates the first long distance connection from Boston to New York City
  • 1891
    • Almon Strowger receives patent for his automated electromechanical call switching device
      "No longer will my competitor steal all my business just because his wife is a BELL operator."
  • 1899
    • AT&T buys out American Bell assets.
    • Cleyson Brown founds Bell System competitor Brown Telephone (eventually becomes Sprint)
  • 1949
    • U.S. Anti-Trust Lawsuit against AT&T
  • 1956
    • Final Judgement rendered by U.S. Department of Justice; AT&T signs Consent Decree
      • AT&T was not allowed to enter computer and information services business
      • AT&T was permitted to keep their manufacturing arm, Western Electric, as a subsidiary
      • AT&T Long Distance was a Long Distance Telecommunications
      • The Bell Companies were from AT&T
      • Bell Labs is separated as Telecommunication Research
    • AT&T lays Trans-Atlantic Telephone cable TAT-1 across the Atlantic.
  • 1968
    • Microwave Communications of America is incorporated (MCI)
  • 1971
    • MCI receives Government approval to compete with AT&T in the long distance market.
  • 1974 - D.o.J. files Anti-Trust Lawsuit
  • 1978 - Execunet II
    • Execunet II Decision
    • Southern Pacific Communications Company (subsidary of Southern Pacific Railroad) becomes Sprint.
  • 1982 - Modified Final Judgement -
    • The FCC allows AT&T to get into the computer and information systems business, provided:
      • AT&T leaves the local-exchange market
      • Divests itself of all Bell Telephone assets except phone system manufacturing facilities
      • Converts the 22 separate Bell Operating Carriers into 7 Regional Bell Operating Carriers (RBOC)
        • Ameritech
        • Bell Atlantic
        • BellSouth Corporation
        • NYNEX
        • Pacific Telesis Group
        • Southwestern Bell Corporation
        • US West
      • The RBOCs are barred from competing in the long distance market
    • Southern Pacific Communications/Sprint merges with GTE
  • 1983
    • LDDS (Long Distance Discount Services) begins operation (becomes WorldCom)
    • MCI goes International
  • 1986
    • US Telecom and Sprint merge (US Sprint )
  • 1987
    • Sprint completes deployment of all fiber-optic network
  • 1996 - Telecommunications Act
    • Removes most of the protections against competition--all carriers are allowed to compete in all markets, provided they prove they are cooperating with other carriers.
    • Qwest Startup
  • 1998 - MCI/Worldcom Merger
  • 2001 - Qwest fined for 'slamming' ($1.5 million)
  • 2002 - MCI/Worldcom files for bankruptcy (Chapter 11)
  • 2005 - Sprint/Nextel Merger approved

The history of the Public Switched Telephone Network is a history of monopoly, regulation, anti-trust, deregulation, patents and right-of-way issues. Mergers permitted by the deregulation in 1996 have produced large regional carriers with near-monopolistic control over certain markets. Here is where the regional 'Baby Bells' ended up. Here, the Baby Bells are listed by their parent company, post merger and their relative size:

  • (AT&T) Pacific Telesis Group
  • (AT&T) Southwestern Bell Corporation
  • BellSouth Corporation
  • (Verizon) Ameritech
  • Bell Atlantic (changed its name to Verizon)
  • (Verizon) NYNEX
  • (Qwest) US West



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