COMMUNICATIONS: A Bill for Ma Bell

Ma Bell has never kept secret its desire to monopolize U.S. telephone service. Arguing that competition fostered waste, duplication and higher phone rates, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1908 launched an ad campaign with the theme "One system, one policy, universal service."

That goal has never been realized. Although AT&T and its subsidiaries have 118.4 million telephones in 6,722 exchanges in 48 contiguous states —about 82% of the U.S. total—the nation's 1,618 independent companies control the rest: 26.8 million phones in all states except Delaware and Rhode Island. Together,...