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Copyright (c) 2008 Federal Communications Bar Association
Federal Communications Law Journal

ARTICLE AND ESSAY: Toward a Unified Theory of Access to Local Telephone Networks

2008 - 2009

Federal Communications Law Journal

61 Fed. Comm. L.J. 43


Daniel F. Spulber * and Christopher S. Yoo **



The breakup of AT&T represents perhaps the most dramatic landmark of a fundamental shift in U.S. telecommunications policy. 1 Until the 1960s, policymakers generally regarded the entire telephone network as being inherently monopolistic. 2 Over time, technological developments made competition possible in complementary products and services offered through the local telephone network, such as the telephone equipment located in residences and business offices (known as "customer premises equipment" or "CPE"), 3 long-distance service, and the new set of services that combined computing power with transmission to provide innovative new services that went far beyond traditional voice communications (originally called "enhanced services" and later called "information services"). The order mandating the breakup of AT&T, commonly known as the Modification of Final Judgment (MFJ), attempted to promote competition in those services by mandating that the newly created Bell Operating Companies provide rival providers with equal access to their local telephone networks. 4

The MFJ only provided for access to providers of complementary services. It did not envision direct competition in the local telephone network. 5 Technology would soon transform that portion of the network, as new fiber-optic and wireless-based technologies allowed competition in local telephone service to emerge as well. As a result, Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 6 (1996 Act) and included in it a range of access requirements that went far beyond those required by the MFJ. 7 The FCC implemented these new requirements through a regime known as Total Element ...
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