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CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers)

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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.

An LEC is a telephone company that operates within a local area called the LATA (Local Access and Transport Area). The ILECs (incumbent LECs) are the result of the breakup of AT&T in 1984, which created seven independent RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies) in the U.S. These included Pacific Bell, NYNEX, GTE and others, but mergers and consolidations have changed the original gang of seven. Most ILECs operate across a number of LATAs.

The CAPs (Competitive Access Providers) and CLECs (Competitive LECs) compete with the ILECs in the same service areas. Any non-incumbent carrier is called an ITC (Independent Telephone Company), but some ITCs operate in areas where they do not compete with ILECs (such as rural areas that are not covered by the RBOCs or any other phone companies). More recently, the CLECs are morphing into what are called ICPs (Integrated Communications Providers), which provide a variety of "NPN (New Public Network)" services, including Web hosting and Internet access.

An important feature of CLECs is that they can interconnect with the incumbent's SS7 network. See "SS7 (Signaling System 7)" for details.

Refer to "Service Providers and Carriers" for a more complete discussion of these service providers.

CLECs provide bypass services. A bypass service provides a connection for organizations to IXCs that bypasses the ILECs. CLECs may also provide a variety of other services, such as wireless services, voice/data services, Internet access, and more. Originally, the CLECs tried to be like the incumbent carriers, but most found that deploying alternative services such as frame relay, ATM, and eventually Internet access, as well as DSL services, more profitable.

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