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ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers)

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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.

A local exchange carrier is a telephone service provider within a specific geographic area. In the Unites States, the ILECs are the service providers that are part of the old AT&T telephone system. When the government split AT&T up into separate entities, the separate operating units were called the RBOCs (regional Bell operating companies). The Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 allowed the RBOCs to merge, so today it is more appropriate to refer to the incumbent carriers as "ILECs." The following mergers or acquisitions recently occurred:

  • SBC Communications merged with PacBell (Pacific Telesis) in April 1996

  • Bell Atlantic merged with Nynex in April 1996

  • Qwest Communications bought US West in July 1999

  • SBC Communications merged with Ameritech in October 1999

  • Bell Atlantic merged with GTE in June 2000 and renamed itself Verizon

So, the current ILECs are SBC Communications, Bell Atlantic (now called Verizon), Qwest Communications, and BellSouth. The Act also attempted to increase competition by opening local markets. RBOCs were required to open their facilities to competitive providers called CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers). If the ILECs complied with the new rules of competition, they are allowed to expand into long-distance markets. This is discussed further under "Telecommunications Regulation." Also see "Service Providers and Carriers."

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