How AT&T conquered the 20th century

By Matthew Lasar – As the reconstituted AT&T makes its bid to buy T-Mobile, another interesting question presents itself. Why did the United States of America, supposedly the land of free market competition, accept the near total dominance of AT&T over telephone service for about 60 years?

If you accept their observations and arguments as mostly compatible pieces of a larger story, what stands out is a corporation that, at crucial moments, did just about everything right…

The master narrative of the early Bell system is about struggles over patents. On February 17, 1876 Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent for a method of electronically transmitting speech “by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sounds, substantially as set forth.” more>

Further reading

  • Gerald W. Brock, The Telecommunications Industry: The Dyanamics of Market Structure
  • Claude Fischer, America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940
  • Richard A. John, Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications
  • Roland Marchand, Making America Corporate
  • Milton Mueller, Jr., Universal Service: Competition, Interconnection, and Monopoly in the Making


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