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The year was 1984, and Bill McGowan had a problem. Freshly bloodied and scarred from the AT&T divestiture battlefield, where as the head of MCI, he served as the attacking general who, in many people s minds, singlehandedly drove the breakup of the Bell System. McGowan realized that the toppling of the titan and subsequent shattering of AT&T into eight distinct pieces (seven regional providers plus one long-distance provider), shown in Figure 1-1, only resolved one of the challenges that would lead to the creation of a truly competitive marketplace. Although the best-known impact of divestiture was the breakup of AT&T (one result of which was the liberalization of the telecommunications marketplace in the U.S.), a second decision that was tightly intertwined with the Bell System s breakup was largely invisible to the public, yet was at least as important to AT&T competitors, MCI and Sprint, as the breakup itself. This decision, known as Equal Access, had one seminal goal: to make it possible for end customers to take advantage of one of the products of divestiture, the ability to select one s long-distance provider from a pool of available service providers in this case AT&T, MCI, or Sprint. This, of course, was the realization of a truly competitive marketplace in the longdistance market segment. To understand this evolution, it is helpful to have a high-level understanding of the overall architecture of the network. In the pre-divestiture world, AT&T was the provider for local service, long-distance service, and communications equipment. An AT&T central office (CO), therefore, was awash in AT&T hardware, such as switches, cross-connect devices, multiplexers, amplifiers, repeaters, and myriad other devices. Figure 1-2 shows a typical network layout in the pre-divestiture world. A customer s telephone is connected to the service provider s network by a local loop connection (so-called twisted pair wire). The local loop, in turn, connects to the local switch in the central office. This switch is the point at
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Figure 1-1 Divestiture.
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NYNEX 22 BOCs BellSouth
Bell Atlantic
Ameritech
USWest
Pacific Telesis
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Beginnings
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AT&T Long-Distance Switches
Figure 1-2 The pre-divestiture switching hierarchy.
AT&T Local Switches
which customers first touch the telephone network, and it has the responsibility to perform the initial call setup, maintain the call while it is in progress, and tear it down when the call is complete. This switch is called a local switch because its primary responsibility is to set up local calls that originate and terminate within the same switch. It has one other responsibility, though, and that is to provide the necessary interface between the local switch and the long-distance switch, so that calls between adjacent local switches (or between far-flung local switches) can be established. The process goes something like this. When a customer lifts the handset and goes off-hook, a switch in the telephone closes, completing a circuit that enables current flow that in turn brings dial tone to the customer s ear. Upon hearing the dial tone, the customer enters the destination address of the call (otherwise known as a telephone number). The switch receives the telephone number and analyzes it, determining from the area code and prefix information whether the call can be completed within the local switch or must leave the local switch for another one. If the call is indeed local, it merely burrows through the crust of the switch and then reemerges at the receiving local loop. If the call is a toll or long-distance call, it must burrow through the hard crunchy coating of the switch, pass through the soft,
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