There are several types of phone companies and many terms used to describe who they are and what they do. This list is somewhat outdates since the 1996 Telecommunications Act removed many of the regulatory restrictions that defined each of these types of companies.

Keep in mind that many of the definitions below are legal definitions which change with time as the laws change and the government imposes, or removes regulations.


Regional Bell-Operating Carrier
A regional Bell-operating carrier (RBOC) is any of the seven phone companies created by the 1956 D.o.J. Final Judgement and 1982 Modified Final Judgement . The RBOCs were originally part of American Bell / AT&T. The Judgement required AT&T to divest itself of all of the local exchange systems in its posession and to stop competing in the local exchange market. The RBOCs were forbidden from competing in the long-distance market. Any common carrier who has as its origin, one of the 7 regional carriers created by the Modified Final Judgement is an RBOC.
COmpetitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC)
The competitive local exchange carrier is a competitor who entered the local market after the breakup of AT&T.
Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier
The Incumbant Local Exchange Carrier is same as the Regional Bell Operating Carrier. Bell was the phone carrier granted a limited monopoly in the United States, so they are the incumbent in most areas of the United States.
Local Exchance Carrier
Any carrier who provides local telephone service is a local exchange carrier. Both the RBOCs, the CLECs and the ILECs are Local Exchange Carriers.
Long Distance Carrier
Any carrier who provides long-distance telephone service from one calling area to another, especially across state lines, is considered a long-distance carrier.


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