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LATA (Local Access and Transport Area)

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The RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies), which are now more properly referred to as the ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers), operate within specific geographical areas, which are divided into service areas called LATAs (local access and transport areas). LATAs were defined during the restructuring of AT&T in 1984, and there are close to 200 of them.

The carriers that handle services within a LATA are referred to as LECs (local exchange carriers). ITOs (independent telephone companies) are non-incumbent telephone companies, some of which operate in areas where they compete with the RBOCs. Therefore, they are local exchange carriers that compete with the RBOCs and are called competitive LECs or CLECs. See "Service Providers and Carriers" for a description of LECs, CLECs, and other types of service providers.

Services provided within a LATA are called intra-LATA services. Any service provided outside the LATA is an inter-LATA service, and these services are provided by IXCs (interexchange carriers), which include MCI Worldcom, US Sprint, and AT&T. All LECs must provide an access point into the LATA areas to interexchange carriers. This access point is called the POP (point of presence).

Note that the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 makes it possible for IXCs to offer services in local (intra-LATA) areas, and for the LECs and RBOCs to offer long-distance services. Consequently, a variety of network services are now available that disrupt the incumbent carriers, including cable access, wireless services, and fiber services to the home or office. As interest in VoIP (Voice over IP) has increased, many competing service providers emerged. Refer to "NPN (New Public Network)."

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