- Bell System
] The Bell System was commonly referred to by the nickname Ma Bell.
Formation under Bell patent
Receiving a U.S.
patentfor the invention of the telephoneon March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell formed the Bell Telephone Company in 1877 which in 1885 became AT&Tcite web | url=http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cjv14n2-6.html | publisher= Cato Institute| title=Unnatural Monopoly: Critical Moments |accessdate=2008-17-09] cite web | url=http://sln.fi.edu/franklin/inventor/bell.html | publisher= Franklin Institute| title=Bell's Telephone |accessdate=2008-17-09] cite web | url=http://www.corp.att.com/history/milestones.html | publisher= AT&T| title=AT&T Milestones in AT&T History |accessdate=2008-17-09] When Bell's original patent expired 15 years later in 1894, the telephone market opened to competition and 6,000 new telephone carries started while the Bell Telephone company took a significant financial downturn.
On April 30, 1907,
Theodore Newton Vailreturned as President of AT&T. Vail believed in the superiority of one phone system and AT&T adopted the slogan "One Policy, One System, Universal Service."cite web | url=http://www.corp.att.com/history/history3.html | publisher= AT&T| title=AT&T History: The Bell System |accessdate=2008-17-09] This would be the company's philosophy for the next 70 years.
Under Vail, AT&T began buying up many of the smaller telephone companies including Western Union telegraph. Anxious to avoid action from government
antitrustsuits, AT&T and the federal government entered into an agreement known as the Kingsbury Commitment.
Kingsbury Commitment"Following a government antitrust suit in 1913, AT&T agreed to the Kingsbury Commitment in which AT&T would sell its $30 million in Western Union stock, allow competitors to interconnect with their system, not acquire other independent companies.
The Bell trademark (pictured right) used by both the AT&T corporation and the regional operating corporations from 1921 to 1939 to co-brand themselves under a single Bell System trademark would have the regional operating corporation's name where the "name of associated company" appears in this boilerplate version of the trademark. Phones themselves were made by
Western Electric, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T, who also owned or controlled the local Bell System companies responsible for local phone service. Member telephone companies paid a fixed fraction of their revenues as a license fee to Bell Labs.
Government sanctioned monopolization
In 1934, the government set AT&T up as a
regulated monopolyto be under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission.cite web | url=http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Kingsbury_Commitment | publisher=bookrags.com | title=Kingsbury Commitment Summary: The Bell System |accessdate=2008-17-09]
As a result, by 1940 the Bell System effectively owned most telephone service in the United States, from local and long-distance service to the telephone itself. With control of the phone system, Bell could effectively prohibit its customers from connecting to the system without leasing fees phones not made or sold by Bell companies. For example, if a customer desired a type of phone not leased by the local Bell monopoly, one had to purchase the phone at cost, give it to the phone company, then pay a 're-wiring' charge and a monthly lease fee in order to use it. An oft-heard remark at the time was "Ma Bell has you by the calls".
consent decree, to which AT&T and the United States Department of Justice agreed as a resolution of an antitrustlawsuit filed in the United States in 1949, limited AT&T to engaging in only activities related to a maximum of 85% of the United States' national telephonenetwork and certain government contracts, which precluded the Bell System from extending its reach into the fledgling computer industry and from continuing to hold interests in Canadaand the Caribbean. The Bell System's Canadian operations included the Bell Canadaregional operating company and the Northern Electric manufacturing subsidiary of the Bell System's Western Electricequipment manufacturer. Northern Electric and Bell Canada were spun off in 1956 as separate companies outside of the Bell System proper. The Bell System's Caribbean regional operating companies were sold to the International Telephone & Telegraph Co., later known as ITT.
The Bell System also owned various Caribbean regional operating companies, as well as 54% of NEC and a post-WW II re-construction relationship with NTT before the 1956 boundaries were emplaced. Before 1956, the Bell System's reach was truly gargantuan, as the list below of now-divested formerly-held corporations indicates. Even during the period from 1956 to 1984, the Bell System's dominant reach into all forms of communications was pervasive within the United States and influential in telecommunication standardization throughout the industrialized world.
Bell System divestiturethat brought an end to the affiliation branded as the Bell System was the result of a lawsuitalleging illegal practices by the Bell System companies to stifle competitionin the telecommunications industry; the lawsuit was brought against it by the United States Department of Justice(DOJ). That lawsuit was filed in 1974, and was settled on January 8, 1982, displacing the former restrictions that AT&T and the DOJ had agreed to in 1956based on a previous anti-trustlawsuit filed by the DOJ in 1949that alleged that AT&T and its Bell System operating companies were using its near monopoly in telecommunications to attempt to establish allegedly unfair advantage in related technologies, especially the fledgling computer industry.
Prior to the 1984 break-up that ended the Bell System, the Bell System included not only AT&T corporate and its long-lines long-distance routing but also Bell Operating Companies.
Present-day usage of the Bell name
The Bell System trademark (as diagram) and service mark (as the words Bell System in text) was used before
January 1, 1984, when the AT&T divestiture of its regional operating companies took effect.
Of the various resulting 1984 spinoffs, only
BellSouthactively used and promoted the Bell name and logo for its entire history, from the 1984 break up to its merger with the new AT&T in 2006. Similarly, cessation of using either the Bell name or logo occurred for many of the other companies more than a decade after the 1984 break up as part of an acquisition-related rebranding. The others have only used the marks on rare occasions to maintain their trademark rights, even less now that they have adopted names conceived long after divestiture. Examples include Verizon, which still uses the Bell logo on its trucks and payphones, and Qwest, formerly US West, which licenses the Northwestern Belland Mountain Bellnames to Unical Enterprises, who makes telephones under the Northwestern Bell name. Qwest also has a rural subsidiary in Oregon, Malheur Bell, that continues to use the Bell name and logo. Cincinnati Bell, a local franchise of the Bell System that was never wholly owned by AT&T and existed separately prior to 1984, also continues to use the Bell name. It stopped using the Bell logo in the summer of 2006, though it is still seen on some bills, vehicles, and other literature.
In 1984, each regional Bell operating company was assigned a set list of names they were allowed to use in combination with the Bell marks. Again, aside from Cincinnati Bell and Malheur Bell, none of these Bell System names are currently in use in the United States. For example,
Southwestern Bellused both the Bell name and the circled-bell trademark until SBC opted for all of its companies to do business under the "SBC" name in 2002. Bell Atlantic used the Bell name and circled-bell trademark until renaming itself Verizon in 2000.
Telephone Companies outside of the Bell System that use "Bell" in their names include
PBXtelephone dealer near Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, called Missouri Bell Telecomwhich was established during 1991, and Liberty Bell Telephone.
Of the various resulting 1956 spinoffs, only
Bell Canadacontinues to use the Bell name, although cessation of using either the Bell name and circled-bell trademark occurred for some of these companies multiple decades later. For example, for the multiple decades that Nortelwas named Northern Telecom, their research and development arm was Bell Northern Research. Bell Canada and its holding-company parent, Bell Canada Enterprises, still use the Bell name and used variations the circled-bell logo until 1977, which until 1976 strongly resembled the 1921 to 1939 Bell System trademark shown above.
ubsidiaries and Bell Operating Companies Today
Before the 1984 break-up, the Bell System consisted of the companies listed below. These companies were divested from AT&T in 1984, except as noted. The former operating companies of the Bell System listed below are organized according to the current owners of the companies (or their successors). All of these companies, except for Cincinnati Bell, which remains independent, and New England Telephone, which was spun off by Verizon and purchased by FairPoint Communications in 2008, belong to AT&T, Verizon, or Qwest, the three remaining Regional Holding Companies (
* AT&T Inc., a currently-existing holding company
**AT&T Corporation, a current subsidiary
*** AT&T Communications (Long Lines until 1984), the inter-operating-company routing unit
AT&T Labs, once a portion of Bell Labs
** AT&T Teleholdings, Inc. (formerly Ameritech Corporation), a current subsidiary
Illinois BellTelephone Company, a currently existing regional LEC
Indiana BellTelephone Company, Inc., a currently existing regional LEC
Michigan BellTelephone Company, a currently existing regional LEC
Ohio BellTelephone Company, a currently existing regional LEC
Wisconsin TelephoneCompany, a currently existing regional LEC
BellSouthCorporation, a current subsidiary. Its two operating companies merged into one:
BellSouth Telecommunications, Operating Company formed by the merger of:
South Central BellTelephone Company, a former regional LEC
Southern BellTelephone and Telegraph Company, a former regional LEC
** Pacific Telesis Group, a current subsidiary
The Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company, a currently existing regional LEC, more commonly known as Pacific Telephone
Bell Telephone Company of Nevada, a currently existing regional LEC, more commonly known as Nevada Bell; omitted from the MFJ
**Southern New England Telecommunications Corp., a current subsidiary
Southern New England TelephoneCompany, a currently existing regional LEC that AT&T owned 16.8% of before 1984 and thus was left separate by the 1984 break-up
Southwestern BellTelephone Company, a currently existing regional LEC
* Cincinnati Bell, Inc., a currently-existing regional operating company of which AT&T owned 27.8% before 1984 and thus was left separate in by 1984 break-up
* Qwest Communications International, Inc., a currently-existing holding company. Its three operating companies merged into one while still under U S West:
** U S WEST, Inc., a former RBOC holding company
Mountain States Telephone & TelegraphCompany, a currently existing regional LEC, commonly known as Mountain Bell
**** Malheur Home Telephone Company, a currently existing independent LEC which Mountain Bell acquired a controlling interest in; not a
Bell Operating Company
Pacific Northwest BellTelephone Company, a former regional LEC
Northwestern BellTelephone Company, a former regional LEC
* Verizon Communications, Inc., formerly
Bell AtlanticCorporation, a currently-existing holding company
Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, a currently existing regional LEC
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, a currently existing regional LEC
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Maryland, a currently existing regional LEC
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Virginia, a currently existing regional LEC
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of West Virginia, a currently existing regional LEC
Diamond State Telephone Company, a currently existing regional LEC
New Jersey Bell Telephone Company, a currently existing regional LEC
NYNEX, a former RBOC holding company
New York TelephoneCompany, a currently existing regional LEC
Alcatel-Lucent, a currently-existing equipment/research company
** Lucent Technologies, Inc., a research company spun off separately in
1995and merged with Alcatelin 2006
Western Electric, a former telecommunications and recording equipment-manufacturing company that ceased to have that name as of the 1984 break-up
**** Alcatel-Lucent Bell, a present-day subsidiary of
Alcatel-Lucentthat was founded in Antwerp, Belgiumin 1882, by Western Electric. It came into Alcatel-Lucent ownership via ITTand Alcatel.
Bell Labs, the former AT&T-corporate research unit
* Avaya, Inc., a currently-existing equipment manufacturing company spun off from
LSI Corporation, a currently-existing holding company
** Agere Systems, incorporated on August 1, 2000, the former Micro Electronics subsidiary of
Lucentwas then spun off in 2002and acquired by LSIin 2007
Systimax Solutions, the Western ElectricStructured Cabling unit, once known as AT&T Network Systemswas spun off from Avayain 2002 and is now part of CommScope
* Telcordia Technologies, Inc., a currently-existing research company, formerly known as Bell Communications Research (Bellcore)
FairPoint Communications, an LEC that was never part of the Bell System, and in fact was not founded until 1991, after the divestiture
** New England Telephone and Telegraph Company, a currently existing regional LEC sold by Verizon in 2008
1991, the Baby Bellsbegan to consolidate operations or legally rename their Bell Operating Companiesaccording to the parent company name, such as "Bell Atlantic – Delaware, Inc." or "U S West Communications, Inc.", to "unify" the corporate image. To this day, the only remaining Baby Bellthat has not renamed its operating companies is AT&T, formerly SBC Communications. Since 1995, there have only been 19 Bell Operating Companies, following the mergers of US West's and BellSouth's operating companies. Only 9 of those 19 have retained their original corporate name since their incorporation before 1984.
Before the 1956 break-up, the Bell System also included the companies listed below. Bell Canada, Northern Electric, and the Caribbean regional operating companies were considered part of the Bell System proper before the 1956 break-up. Nippon Electric was considered a more distant affiliate of Western Electric than Northern Electric, where Nippon Electric via its own research and development adapted the designs of Western Electric's North American telecommunications equipment for use in
Japan, which to this day gives much of Japan's telephone equipment and network a closer resemblance to North American ANSI and Telcordia standards than to European-originated ITU-Tstandards. Before the 1956 break-up, Northern Electric was predominantly focused only on manufacturing without any significant amount of separate telecommunication-equipment research & development of its own. The post-WWII-occupation operation of NTT was considered an administrative adjunct to the North American Bell System.
* Bell Canada Enterprises, Inc., a currently-existing regional operating company
Bell Canada, a current LEC
* Nortel Networks Corporation, formerly Northern Telecom, a currently-existing equipment-manufacturing company
** Northern Electric, a former telecommunications equipment-manufacturing subsidiary of Western Electric
** Dominion Electric, a former recording equipment-manufacturing company
* Various former
Caribbeanregional operating companies, sold to ITT
* NEC, a currently-existing equipment-manufacturing company in Japan
** Nippon Electric, a former telecommunications equipment-manufacturing company 54% owned by Western Electric
* NTT, a currently-existing telecommunications company in Japan that was administered by AT&T as part of General Douglas MacArthur's post-WWII reconstruction
* From 1940 to 1968 the company sponsored "
The Bell Telephone Hour" on NBCradio and (later) television. The program was devoted to concert performances by various singers and musicians.
* Hip Hop artist
MF Doomrefers to the Bell System in a verse of "Beef Rapp", his first track on "MM..Food?". The verse goes as follows: :"Keep a cooker where the jar fell, And keep a cheap hooker that's off the hook like Ma Bell"
Beastie Boysrefer to the Bell System in identical lines from the songs " Get It Together" and " Sure Shot", on the " Ill Communication" album::"Like Ma Bell, I got the ill communication"
* The Beastie Boys again reference the Bell System in the song "
Root Down", also off the "Ill Communication" album, with the line:"MCA grab the mic' and Ma Bell will connect you"
Kurtis Blowrefers to the Bell System in the song "The Breaks"::"And Ma Bell sends you a whopping bill...With 18 phone calls to Brazil"
* In the book "The Outcasts of 19 Schulyer Place", by E.L. Konigsburg, there are many references to the Ma Bell phone company, because phone towers are one of the main topics of the book. (mg)
* In the climax of the 1967 satirical film "
The President's Analyst", it is revealed that "The Phone Company" (TPC) - an obvious allusion to Bell Telephone - is planning a massive conspiracy to surgically implant communications devices into the brains of its customers. Also featured is a TPC-produced propaganda film that parodies the educational shorts that Frank Capraproduced for Bell Laboratories in the 1950s.
Steven Spielberg's 1982 film " E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" includes a scene where the title character watches a television commercial for the Bell System, prompting the famous line, "E.T. phone home!" Later that same year the E.T. character appeared in one of Bell's "Reach out and touch someone" ads.
* In the 1990 film "
Home Alone", after a tree branch falls on the McAlisters' telephone lines, a repair man reports to Mrs. McAlister, "We got the power lines up, but the phone lines are a real mess. It's gonna take Ma Bell a couple a' days to fix." This lead to the family being unable to call Kevin after they left him home alone.
* In the 1968 film "", a pay phone (with video screen) aboard a space station has the Bell System logo.
Bell System divestiture
RBOC(Regional Bell Operating Company)
American Telephone & Telegraph Company
Independent telephone company
The Liberty Bell Telephone-www.libertybelltelecom.com
These are verifications of proof these companies that carry the "Bell" label outside the Bell System exist.
* [http://www.bell.com/ Bell.com] [bell.com
* [http://www.bellsystemmemorial.org/ Bell System Memorial]
* [http://www.belltelephonesigns.com/ Blue Bell Telephone Sign History — New England Telephone and Telegraph]
* [http://www.corp.att.com/history/ AT&T Corporation (1885-2005 company) History]
* [http://lw.bna.com/lw/19980602/971113.htm "BellSouth vs. FCC" — reference for company names]
* [http://www.uspto.gov USPTO — see trademark database]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.