It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost 20 years since AT&T was split up into separate companies. While everyone is used to the rabid competition of long distance carriers, competition for local phone service is just getting started.

If you’ve been confused about some of the acronyms used by these telephone companies, here is a quick guide.
If this quick list leaves you wanting more, check out TechRepublic’s telco acronym glossary. It’s a complete list of both data networking and telecommunication terms. It’s free and available for download by clicking here.
RBOC—Regional Bell Operating Company
When the Consent Decree split up AT&T in the early 1980s, the long distance company was separated from the local service business. However, the local service business itself was so huge that it was split into seven individual companies, based on geographic regions. Hence, we got the name RBOC, though they were more commonly known collectively as the Baby Bells.

LEC—Local Exchange Carrier
The LEC is the company that used to have the monopoly on local service in a specific geographical area. The RBOCs (see above) were originally composed of a number of LECs. However, not all LECs are RBOCs. There are still many small, independent LECs, especially in rural areas, that were never part of AT&T. Almost all LECs, whatever their origins, face competition from new companies.

CLEC—Competitive Local Exchange Carrier
As the name implies, a CLEC is a company that is challenging the monopoly of an LEC for local phone service. Some areas have a number of CLECs, while others are still waiting to see real competition for local service. The nature of the competition can also vary from CLEC to CLEC. Some company’s focus exclusively on providing local phone service to business customers, other CLECs handle both residential and business customers.

BLEC—Building Local Exchange Carrier
Also known as “Real Estate Carriers,” BLECs provide a customer provisioning a new office the opportunity to get local phone service from their landlord. Real estate developers are adding increasingly sophisticated wiring and telecom infrastructure when they build new developments. Some BLECs, like Everest Broadband, are getting quite large. However, many BLECs are rather small and started their business by reselling LEC Centrex service to their tenants. In fact, many BLECs still resell LEC and CLEC voice and data services, instead of building out their own networks.
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