Baby Bells


The Regional Bell Operating Companies are the result of United States v. AT&T, the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust suit against the former American Telephone & Telegraph Company. On January 8, 1982, AT&T Corp. settled the suit and agreed to divest its local exchange service operating companies. Effective January 1, 1984, AT&T Corp.’s local operations were split into seven independent Regional Bell Operating Companies known as Baby Bells.

Baby Bells

What is ‘Baby Bells’

A common nickname given to the U.S. regional telephone companies that were formed from the breakup of AT&T (“Ma Bell”) in 1984. Baby Bells were created in accordance with antitrust legislation, which is designed to create more competition within the industry.

Explaining ‘Baby Bells’

Upon the initial breakup of AT&T, the Baby Bells included Nynex in New York and New England; Bell Atlantic, BellSouth and Ameritech in the Midwest; and Southwestern Bell, U.S. West and Pacific Telesis in California and Nevada. Over time, however, these companies have gone through several more corporate changes, such as acquisitions and mergers. As a result, the industry has been consolidated into a few domestic telephone providers.

Further Reading

  • Public-private alliances for telecommunications development: Intracorporate baby bells in the developing countries – [PDF]
  • Sibling rivalry: The emergence of competition among the baby bells – [PDF]
  • Notes and Communications: The Financial Crisis: Origins and Remedies in a Critical Institutionalist Perspective – [PDF]
  • Strategic flexibility creating dynamic competitive advantages – [PDF]
  • Using economic profit to assess performance: A metric for modern firms – [PDF]
  • Alternative forms of economic organization: Be careful what you wish for – [PDF]