History of Telecom

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Bill's 200-Year Condensed History of Telecommunications

William von Alven,
Manager, FCC Part 68 Operations

May 1998

First, a few notes on the 14th Part 68 Training Seminar held in Albuquerque on February 18 - 20 , 1998. These seminars, always well-attended, are very important for assuring "experience retention". Human beings are very ephemeral. When they retire, change jobs, or otherwise disappear, their experience goes with them. These seminars have been and will be an excellent means for assuring continuity of information necessary to keep our multi-supplier telecommunications system working.

The first seminar was sponsored by EIA in 1979 and was held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The FCC's Part 68 Measurement Guide, developed by FCC engineer, Ed Lang, was the centerpiece of the meeting. About 450 people attended and the price was $35.00, including luncheon. Since then George Washington University sponsored five seminars at various locations over the country, and EIA/TIA sponsored the remainder at two-year intervals.

After the Phoenix seminar in 1990, a number of attendees asked me for a copy of my presentation in which I covered a list of events that led to the development of Part 68. I hadn't written my talk; however, it was published in the February 1990 issue of the Billboard. I am reprinting it here with some updates:


1200 BC - Homer talks about signal fires in the Iliad.

700 BC to 300 AD - Carrier pigeons used in Olympic games

1588 AD - Arrival of the Spanish Armada announced by signal fires

Voice telegraphs used hundreds of years BC through the Middle Ages and in the Canary Islands today.

~1800 AD - A line of canon from Buffalo to NYC used to announce Gov. DeWitt Clinton's inaugural trip through the Erie Canal. It took 80 minutes.


1791 - The Chappe brothers, in France, were in their teens and were going to schools some distance apart but visible to each other. They obtained permission to set up a signaling system so they could send messages to each other. Their semaphore system consisted of movable arms on a pole whose positions denoted letters of the alphabet.

1793 - The Chappe brothers established the first commercial semaphore system between two locations near Paris. Napoleon thought this was a great idea. Soon there were semaphore signaling systems covering the main cities of France. Semaphore signaling spread to Italy, Germany and Russia. Thousands of men were employed manning the stations. Speed: about 15 characters per minute. Code books came into play so that whole sentences could be represented by a few characters. Semaphores weren't very successful in England because of the fog and smog caused by the Industrial Revolution. Claude Chappe headed France's system for 30 years and then was "retired" when a new administration came into power. There were semaphore systems in the U.S., especially from Martha's Vineyard (an island near Cape Cod) and Boston, reporting to Boston's Custom House on the movement of sailing ships. This was also true around New York City and San Francisco. Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the electric telegraph, reportedly saw the semaphore system in operation in Europe. The last operational semaphore system went out of business in 1860. It was located in Algeria.

1840 - Congress was requested to provide funding for a semaphore system running from NYC to New Orleans. Samuel Morse, it is said, advised against funding of this system because of his work on developing the electric telegraph.

1843 - FAX invented by the Scotch physicist Alexander Bain.

1844 - Morse demonstrates the electric telegraph.

1851 - There are 51 telegraph companies in operation

1856 - Western Union formed by six men from Rochester, N.Y. They start an acquisition spree.

1861 - Both coasts are connected. There are now 2250 telegraph offices in operation nationwide.

1867 - The first Atlantic cable, promoted by Cyrus Field, was layed on July 27th.

1870 - Thomas Edison invents multiplex telegraphy.

1872 - Western Union buys the telegraph equipment manufacturing firm, Gray & Barton, and renamed it Western Electric.


1876 - Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone. Elisha Gray files a patent application 3 hours after Bell. Over 600 patent suits filed during the next 11 years. Settled in Bell's favor. Bell offers his patent to Western Union for $100,000. I obtained the following item years ago from Warren Bender, of A.D. Little, Inc. Warren published it in an early issue of the Transactions of the IEEE Systems, Man & Cybernetics Society. I would like to share it with you.

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and his financial backer, Gardiner G. Hubbard, offered Bell's brand new patent (No. 174,465) to the Telegraph Company - the ancestor of Western Union. The President of the Telegraph Company, Chauncey M. DePew, appointed a committee to investigate the offer. The committee report has often been quoted. It reads in part:

"The Telephone purports to transmit the speaking voice over telegraph wires. We found that the voice is very weak and indistinct, and grows even weaker when long wires are used between the transmitter and receiver. Technically, we do not see that this device will be ever capable of sending recognizable speech over a distance of several miles.

"Messer Hubbard and Bell want to install one of their "telephone devices" in every city. The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?

"The electricians of our company have developed all the significant improvements in the telegraph art to date, and we see no reason why a group of outsiders, with extravagant and impractical ideas, should be entertained, when they have not the slightest idea of the true problems involved. Mr. G.G. Hubbard's fanciful predictions, while they sound rosy, are based on wild-eyed imagination and lack of understanding of the technical and economic facts of the situation, and a posture of ignoring the obvious limitations of his device, which is hardly more than a toy... .

"In view of these facts, we feel that Mr. G.G. Hubbard's request for $100,000 of the sale of this patent is utterly unreasonable, since this device is inherently of no use to us. We do not recommend its purchase."

The amusing thing about this letter, in retrospect, is that Bell obtained controlling interest in Western Union by 1882!

1876 - Edison invents the electric motor and the phonograph.

1877 - Western Union has first telephone line in operation between Somerville, MA and Boston.

1878 - First telephone directory, New Haven, CT, and had 21 listings.

1880 - American Bell founded. 30,000 phones in use. Bell spoke over a 1300-ft beam of light using his patented Photophone equipment.

1881 - Mr. Eckert who ran a telephone company in Cincinnati said he preferred the use of females to males as operators. "Their service is much superior to that of men or boys. They are much steadier, do not drink beer nor use profanity, and are always on hand."

1882 - Bell has controlling interest in Western Union and Western Electric.

1884 - Paul Nipkow obtains a patent in Germany for TV, using a selenium cell and a mechanical scanning disk. First long distance call: Boston to NYC.

1885 - Theodore Vail becomes President of AT&T. Leaves in 1887 to go to South America to install electric traction systems.

1890 - Herman Hollerith gets a contract for processing the 1900 census data using punched cards. His firm was eventually named IBM in 1924.


1892 - Amon Strowger, the St. Louis undertaker, became upset on finding that the wife of a competitor was a telephone operator who made his line busy and transferred calls meant for him to her husband. "Necessity is the mother of invention" so Strowger developed the dial telephone system to get the operator out of the system. He forms a Chicago firm, Automatic Electric, to manufacture step-by-step central office equipment (which is now owned by GTE). The first automatic C.O. was installed in LaPorte, Indiana. I discovered in Ralph Meyer's book, Old Time Telephones, that actually, in 1879, Connelly, Connelly and McTighe patented an automatic dial system, although they did not commercialize it.

1893 - An early form of broadcasting was started in Budapest over 220 miles of telephone wires serving 6000 subscribers who could listen at regular schedules to music, news, stock market prices, poetry readings and lectures.

1900 - John J. Carty, Chief Engineer of NY Tel (and later AT&T), installs loading coils, invented by Michael Pupin, to extend range and utilizes open wire transposition to reduce crosstalk an inductive pickup from ac transmission lines. AT&T paid Pupin $255,000 for the use of his patent. There are now about 20,000 telcos in business. There are now 856,000 telephones in service.

1906 - Lee deForest invents the vacuum tube.

1907 - States start to regulate telcos. Mississippi was among the first. (The idea of regulation goes back several centuries, when in England, innkeepers were required to post their charges to prevent gouging. (I wish it applied to plumbers.) "Common carrier" regulation refers to government approval of tariffs filed by railroads, truck lines, telcos, etc which provide the terms and conditions whereby the public can make use of their services.

1907 -Theodore Vail returns as President of AT&T (and Western Union). He is responsible for the concept of "end-to-end" service that guided AT&T and other telcos in providing the C.O., transmission systems, and CPE that lasted until the Carterphone and Specialized Common Carrier Decisions.

1909 - Western Union and AT&T are closely locked.

1910 - Peter DeBye in Holland, develops theory for optical waveguides. He was a few years ahead of his time. Interstate Commerce Commission starts to regulate telcos.

1913 - The Kingsbury Agreement. Mr. Kingsbury was an AT&T vice president. In his famous letter to the U.S. Government, AT&T agrees to divest its holdings of Western Union, stop acquisition of other telcos, and permit other telcos to interconnect.

1914 - Underground cables link Boston, NYC and Washington.

1915 - Vacuum tube amplifiers used the first time in coast-to-coast telco circuits. In opening the service, Bell, in New York, repeated his famous first telephone sentence to his assistant, Mr.Watson, who was in San Francisco, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." Watson replied, "If you want me, it will take me almost a week to get there." E.T. Whitaker develops the sampling theorem that forms the basis of today's PCM and TCM technologies.

1920 - Bell introduces its own step-by-step offices that were previously acquired from Automatic Electric. G. Valensi develops the time domain multiplexing concept.

1921 - The Willis-Graham Act allows telcos to merge with permission of the States and the Interstate Commerce Commission.

1925 - Bell Telephone Laboratories founded. 1.5 million dial telephones in service out of 12 million phones in service.

1926 - Baird in Scotland and Jenkins in the U.S. demonstrate TV using neon bulbs and mechanical scanning disks. P.M. Rainey at Western Electric patents the PCM methodology.

1928 - Zworykin files patents on electronic scanning TV using the iconoscope.

1930 - AT&T introduces much higher quality insulated wire.

1934 - Federal Communications Commission founded. Combined functions of RF spectrum allocation previously handled by the Federal Radio Commission and interstate regulation for common carriers. Introduced "value-of-service" pricing which required the subsidization of residential subscribers to speed the availability of nationwide telephone service.

1935 - First telephone call around the world. About 6700 telcos in operation.

1937 - Bell introduces the Model 300 improved handset.

1938 - Bell introduces crossbar central office switches.

1939 - WU introduces coast-to-coast fax service. John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry invent the first electronic computer at the Iowa State University. In 1973 a judge ruled in a patent infringement suit that their research was the source of most of the ideas for the modern computer.

1941- Konrad Zuse in Germany develops the first programmable calculator using binary numbers and boolean logic.

1943 - Philadelphia is the last city to have telephone service supplied by different local carriers (until the recent deregulatory moves by Congress and the FCC.) Western Union and Postal Telegraph permitted to merge.

1945 - AT&T lays 2000 miles of coax cable. Arthur C. Clarke proposes communications satellites.

1946 - AT&T televises Army-Navy game in Philadelphia and transmits it to NYC

1946 - AT&T has 8 VF channels on microwave from Catalina Island to Los Angeles. Raytheon has a microwave link transmitting audio from WQXR in NYC to Boston.

1946 - FCC's Recording Devices Docket required telcos to furnish connecting arrangements for conversation recorders. The use of "beep tones" required when conversations are recorded.

1947 - Telcos install nationwide numbering plan. BTL has a 96-channel PCM experimental system working between Murray Hill, N.J. and NYC and quickly discovers the need for repeaters for long-distance service.On December 23, BTL introduces the germanium point contact transistor and in the following year the alloy junction germanium transistor. TI introduces the silicon-based transistor in 1958.

1949 - AT&T introduces the famous black rotary Model 500 telephone.

1949 - Bell Labs publishes Shannon's seminal theory of relay logic so important in the development of modern computers.

1949 - FCC's Jordaphone Docket (1949 - 1954). A precursor to Part 68. Jordaphone and three other manufacturers of answering machines sought FCC approval for their use on telco lines. The FCC decision left the matter to the states as only about 1% of telephone calls at that time were interstate. Commissioner Frieda Hennock filed her famous opposition in favor of the petitioners.

1950 - 75% of lines are party lines.

1952 - The first database was implemented on RCA's Bizmac computer. Reynold Johnson, an IBM engineer, developed a massive hard disk consisting of fifty platters, each two feet wide, that rotated on a spindle at 1200 rpm with read/write heads. These were called "jukeboxes".

1954 - Gene Amdahl developed the first computer operating system for the IBM 704. Sony introduces the first transistor radio that sold for $49.95. Raytheon introduces the transistor for hearing aids replacing its line of subminiature tubes. Zenith's highly successful hearing aids using subminiature tubes, about the size of a pack of cigarettes with a separate battery pack sold for about $25.00. The new transistor hearing aids reduced the size of the electronic package to about the size of a box of matches with an internal battery and sold for about $100. The first in-the-ear hearing aids appeared about 1955-1956.

1955 - According to Ken Krechmer, A.W. Morten and H.E. Vaughan describe the development of a real modem in their BSTJ paper, Transmission of Digital Information over Telephone Circuits, May 1955. Reynold Johnson at IBM develops the first disk drive.

1956 - AT&T's Consent Decree. In 1949, the Department of Justice wanted AT&T to divest itself of Western Electric.The court ignored the Department of Justice's request. Instead, as the result of the Consent Decree, AT&T got to keep WE; however, it could only stay in the field of telecommunications and it had to license its patents to others.


1956 -. Telco tariffs did not permit customers to add even shoulder rests, let alone noise reducing Hush-a-Phone cup over the microphone. In North Carolina, one was not permitted to place a cover on a telephone directory. (This latter issue was stricken by order of the North Carolina Supreme Court.) The Hush-a-Phone court decision was important because it permitted customer-provided equipment that a privately beneficial and not publicly harmful could be connected to the network. Hush-a-Phone permitted the use of acoustically and/or inductively coupled answering machines, such as Jordaphone, and also fax machines. Previously, AT&T permitted only Government and newspaper wire services to connect fax machines and wire photo equipment. One of the early founders of a fax manufacturing company met with Walter Gifford, President of AT&T in the early 1920s to obtain permission to connect wire line fax equipment to the network for use by newspapers. He said:

"Mr. Gifford, I believe you permit anyone to speak English over you network?"

Mr. Gifford replied, "Why, yes."

"How about foreign languages?"

"Yes, of course."

"Is it OK to whistle or to make unintelligible noises?"

"Yes, of course."

"Well, how about my fax machine? It makes a noise similar to bleep, bleep, bleep."

Mr. Gifford did not object and the news services got permission to connect their fax and wire photo equipment.

1957 - October 4, the Russians launched the first satellite, Sputnik.


1958 - AT&T introduces datasets (modems) for direct connection. Jack Kilby, Texas Instruments, developed the first integrated circuit. TI introduces the silicon-based transistor which soon eclipsed germaninum devices in production volume. Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation develops the first transistorized computer, Model 1604. He later uses liquid nitrogen to enhance the speed of CDC's line of supercomputers.

1959 - AT&T introduces the TH-1 1860-channel microwave system. The FCC's Above 890 MHz Decision allowed private microwave systems.

1960 - AT&T installs first electronic switching system in Morris, IL.There are now 3299 telephone companies.

1961 - Bell Telephone Labs release design information for the touch-tone dial to Western Electric.

1962 - AT&T introduces T-1 multiplex service in Skokie, IL. Telephone cables now start to use plastic insulation. Paul Baron of RAND introduces the idea of distributed packet-switching networks.

1962 - Comsat formed. American Broadcasting Company requests FCC to allow domestic satellites to distribute TV programs. Approximately 10,000 computers are in service.

1964 - IBM releases its famous Model 360 computer that eventually led to $100 billion in sales over its life cycle. George Heilmeier, at RCA's research labs, invents the liquid crystal display. Douglas Englebart at SRI patented the idea of the mouse.

1965 - AT&T introduces stored program controlled switching. There are now 2421 telephone companies.


1966 - Tom Carter sues AT&T to permit connection of his phone patch. Court remands the case to FCC. (One writer stated Tom Carter filed for $1.25 million damages and received $300K. His original complaint had been filed in 1958.)

1967 - Larry Roberts at the Advanced Research Projects Agency publishes a paper proposing ARPANET.

1968 -FCC approves Carterphone Decision. AT&T ordered to revise tariffs effective 1/1/69 to permit connection of CPE. (It took about 10 years of legal action to get Part 68 of the FCC rules in place and operational by 1978). AT&T starts development of the Integrated Digital Services Network (ISDN). Gary Englehart at Stanford Research Institute demonstrates the first combination of a keyboard, keypad, mouse, windows and word processor. Dan Noble, IBM, developed the 8-inch floppy disk. Its capacity increased from 33K in 1971 to 1200K in 1977. AT&T starts 56 Kbps service. Pieter Kramer (Philips) invents the compact disk.

1969 - FCC asks National Academy of Science to recommend an interconnection policy. The Department of Defense initiates the ARPANet, which led to the development of Internet. Initially computers at Stanford University and UCLA are connected.

1970 - AT&T introduces its ESS#2 electronic switch. Intel introduces its popular 4004 4-bit microprocessor which starts the evolution of Intel"s famous line of 386, 486 and Pentium processors. There are now 1841 telephone companies. AT&T permitted to sell its teletype (TWX) service to Western Union.FCC approves the Domestic Satellite Order (which was nine years in the making).

1970 - Bell Telephone Labs release design information to Western Electric for the production of Modular Telephone Cords and Jacks.

1971 - The NAS Report recommended that an equipment certification program could be established to prevent harm to the network caused by hazardous voltages, excessive signal power, improper network control signaling and line imbalance. FCC establishes the PBX and Dialer and Answering Devices Committees to recommend certification standards based on the NAS Report. Satellite decision (nine There was also the Computer I Decision. (Western Union wanted to make use of excess CO computer capacity to do data processing. This decision led to procedures to assure no cross-subsidization between regulated and unregulated activities.) Gary Starkweather, Xerox, patents first laser printer. A couple of years later HP and Canon jointly introduce the first commercial laser printers. FCC establishes the PBX Advisory Committee and the Dialer and Answering Devices Committee and were terminated on the approval of Part 68. The PBX Committee's report was turned over to EIA where it eventually as a voluntary standard, 470. The Dialer and Answering Devices meetings were so contentious that no report was published. The Specialized Common Carrier Decision allowed MCI to get its private line service started over its St. Louis - Chicago route

1973 - Docket 19419 on Pricing of Datasets opened up the necessary technical background for Docket 19528 which led to the development of Part 68. This docket also established a Federal-State Joint Board. A two-week cross-examination of Larry Hohmann, AT&T's Director of Engineering by FCC attorney Michael Slomin provides much of the technical information that led to Part 68 of the FCC's Rules.The Joint Board's recommendations were adopted in part. A companion docket covered standardization of physical connectors needed for the interconnection program proceeded in parallel. In Docket 19808, the famous Telerent Decision, the Commission permitted states to have their own interconnection programs so long as they were no more stringent than the Federal program. This decision was appealed twice to the 4th Circuit Court then went all the way to the Supreme Court for final approval. (As a result telcos when they want to initiate a special intrastate service must file a tariff for the service and a "network disclosure" document that clearly identifies service and equipment requirements.) Docket 20003 was an economic study prepared by the Commission for Congress to show estimated economic effects of permitting private ownership of telephone terminal equipment an permitting competition in interstate telecommunications. The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is introduced making it easier to transfer data information. Harvard grants a PhD to Bob Metcalf . His thesis describes Ethernet.

1973 - Bell Telephone Labs released design information to Western Electric for production of the Com-Key 416, the first KTU-less key system which was less susceptible to damage caused by lightning storms.

1974 - First domestic satellites in operation. AT&T introduces the digital subsriber loop. BBN opens the first public packet-switched network. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn discuss connecting networks together to form an "internet". They collaborate in creating aTransmission Control Protocol (TCP). The Department of Justice files its antitrust suit against AT&T. The Consent Decree, resulting therefrom, required AT&T to divest itself of the 24 Bell Operating Companies by 1984. Value-added (packet-switched networks) come on the scene.

1975 - Summary: There are now 1618 telcos and 140 million phones in the U.S. Bell companies supply 85% of the lines; GTE: 10%. Smallest telco had 19 subscribers. About this time the last manual telco switchboard in Maine is retired.

Notes on GTE:Notes on GTE: Started in 1918 in Wisconsin by two men who bought the Richland Center Telephone Co. On vacation in California, they discovered a telco for sale for $1 million. Its purchase was financed by Paine Webber. By 1945, they owned 22 telcos in 19 states. In 1955, they merged with Gary Telephone which owned Automatic Electric (founded by Amon Strowger). In 1957, they picked up telco properties in Florida and in 1959, Lenkurt, a manufacturer of microwave equipment.

1975 - BTL released production design information to Western Electric for electronic key systems.


1975 continued -. The First Report and Order in Docket 19528 led to Part 68 of FCC rules. A court stay was lifted on June 16, 1976 to permit the registration program to go into effect for toll restrictors, answering machines and data modems. Popular Electronics features the MITS Altair 8800 computer which is considered the first personal computer. Fiber optics being trialed in the U.S. and Europe. FCC's Docket 20099 meetings from 1974 through 1983 establishes carrier-to-carrier interconnection standards. After the breakup of the Bell System, this activity was taken over by the Exchange Carriers Standards Association, later known as the Alliance for Telecommmunications Industry Solutions (ATIS). Docket 20774 establishes standard plugs and jacks for the registration program.

1976 - Digital radio and time division switching introduced. Alan Shugart, IBM, introduced the 5.25-in floppy in 1976. (Much later, in 1987, SONY introduced the 3.5" floppy). Floppies were first introduced with IBM's PCs when they first came on the market in 1981. The telephone companies support "The Consumers Communications Reform Act of 1976" H.R. 12323, which was endorsed by more than 90 members of the House. This proposed legislation would have retained the telephone companies' monopoly. The FCC counters with its Docket 20003, Economic Implications and Interrelationships Arising from Policies and Practices Relating to Cusotmer Interconnection, Jurisdictional Separations and Rate Structures .Resale and sharing of carrier services permitted. Other Common Carriers (OCCs) now have access to telco Foreign Exchange (FX) and Common Control Switching Arrangement (CCSA) private network facilities.

1977 - The Second Report and Order in Docket 19528 survived challenge in the Court of Appeals 4th Circuit. This item provided rules for telephones, key systems and PBXs. The order was challenged again all the way to the Supreme Court, which permitted the registration program to begin on October 17, 1977. The FCC completed program implementation rules by July 1, 1978 in the Third Report and Order. Registration of phones, KTSs and PBXs begin. MCI wins a court challenge to its Execunet Service which permitted the public to make use of its long distance facilities.

1978 - Commission rejects telephone companies' request for the Primary Instrument Concept in which all subscribers would be required to have at least one phone provided by the telephone company.

1979 - The Fourth Report and Order established rules regarding equipment-to-equipment connections. Docket 79-143 established rules for analog OPS and tie line equipment. GTE requests FCC to convene a special task group to develop recommendations for inclusion of T-1 services into Part 68. Dan Brinklin, while still in college, introduces the Visicalc spreadsheet which becomes a spectacular success. Docket 79-105 requires telcos to stop capitalizing premises wiring and the states set up amortization schedules for the eventual transfer of premises wiring ownership to the premises owners.

1980 - AT&T introduces the DataSpeed 40, a forerunner of the current generation "smart terminals" having the capability of doing various forms of data processing rather than serving solely as input terminal to a computer. This led to the Computer II Decision which came up with a binary test: Was the device for "basic" service; or was it for "enhanced" service? Enhanced services had three subdivisions: Protocol conversion, data processing, and information retrieval. All of this led to the Computer III Decision and the Open Network Architecture concept in 1989. Digital local offices and optical fiber transmission being deployed. Switching System #7 is being gradually deployed.

1981 - Docket 81-216, the "Omnibus Docket" was so called because it contained about two dozen items, including make-busy, digital systems, more on premises wiring, party lines, reducing dc on-hook resistance requirements and many more. It took several years to clear all of these items. Hayes introduces its landmark 300-bps modem. IBM introduces its PC in August 1981.

1981 - Bell Telephone Labs design of a network-embedded database of Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) for calling card customers to be accessed by public telephones over Signaling System 7. (Today, improved architectures of this kind underlie all Intelligent Network servicesd.)

1983 - In the CBEMA Decision, an outgrowth of the Computer II Decision, the Commission requires telcos to publish a "Network Disclosure" statement providing information of interconnection and operability requirements for new services. Carolyn Doughty, Bell Telephone Laboratories, files a patent on Caller ID.


1984 - Court orders divestiture of AT&T based on Department of Justice suit. Fred Henck, publisher of Telecommunications Reports and Bernie Strassburg, retired Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau, in their book covering the divestiture of AT&T estimated that legal fees and settlements cost AT&T more than $5 billion. (A Slippery Slope - The Long Road to the Breakup of AT&T)

FCC decisions released relative to turning over previously installed premises wiring to premises owners; Congressionally mandated hearing aid-compatibility requirements for "essential" phones. FCC permits registration of privately owned "instrument operated" coin phones.

1985 - FCC decisions related to registration of CPE for T-1 and subrate digital services

1986 - FCC decision to phase out line-powered channel service units. The National Science Foundation introduces its 56kbps backbone network.

1987 - Ameritech files for registration of switched 56 Kbps digital service CPE. This was integrated with the SW Bell petition to include ISDN in the rules in October of 1991. (It took until 1991 for EIA to develop technical standards for this service.) Bellcore introduces the Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) concept which has the potential of multimedia transmission over the nation's copper loops. SONY introduces the 3.5-in floppy. Philip Estridge, IBM, developed the first hard drive for PCs. It held 10MB. N.J. Bell is the first to implement Caller ID.

1988 - Congress passes the Telecom Trade Act of 1988 in response to alleged dumping of telecom systems in the U.S. by foreign manufacturers. One aspect was the requirement of all imported telecom equipment to comply with all applicable FCC requirements. Enforcement is by U.S. Customs.

1988 - FCC issues Docket 88-57, based on an EIA petition for clarification of previous premises wiring policies. (An order was released in 1990 which elicited about ten petitions for reconsideration. The final order was released in June 1997 clearing many outstanding issues.)

1989 - Congressional decision requiring all new customer-owned phones to be hearing aid compatible. The Computer III Decision leading to the Open Network Architecture concept was to allow unbundled access to all enhanced service providers, everyone receives equal quality and pricing, standard accounting guidelines and to have the BOCs determine what services are needed and how to tariff these services. (There were 118 different services proposed; about half of them could be offered and about 20% of the proposed would have to wait for new technology.) NSF ups its backbone network from 56kbps to T-1.

1990 - AT&T filed a petition to strengthen DID rules for prevention of toll fraud. EIA filed a petition to require digital security coding for cordless phones to prevent random dialing that interfered with 911 operations. Docket 90-313 requiring hotels/motels and coin phones to provide equal access to competing long distance carriers was resolved in 1992.

1991 - Docket 91-281 establishing nationwide caller ID went into effect in late 1995. There are a number of related of related issues yet to be resolved. The Telephone Consumers Protection Act, among other things, required the use of "fax branding" to identify the source of incoming faxes. There were a couple of court cases which delayed application of fax branding to PC fax cards until 1995. Southwestern Bell files to include ISDN in Part 68. The final rules for ISDN went into effect on November 13, 1996. (Canada had essentially the same rules in place for the preceding five years.) Note that AT&T started development of ISDN about the same time that Part 68 was introduced.


1992 - The World Wide Web is born - the brain child of CERN physicist Tim Berners-Lee. Congress required all agencies to metricize their rules. A major impact was on Part 68 plug and jack drawings. We wish to thank a special TIA task group under George Lawrence that managed this job expertly and professionally. The first audio and video multicasts are broadcast over the Internet.

1993 - Telecom Relay Service (TRS) available for the disabled. The NSF network backbone jumps from T-1 to T-3. The Internet browser MOSAIC is introduced at the University of Illinois.

1994 - TRS becomes the fastest growing telecom service in the U.S. The Commission requested comments on technology for location of any station behind a PBX that made an E911 call. There were over 120 responses. The Netscape Internet browser is introduced. Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. sign the NAFTA agreement. NSF is working to build a very high-speed backbone called VBNS. Internet is pretty much world-wide with the exception of most of the African interior, Pakistan, Mongolia, Cuba and some areas in South America and Southeast Asia. Real Audio introduced to Internet which allows one to hear in near real time. Radio HK, the first 24-hr Internet only radio station, starts broadcasting.

1996 - TIA files to harmonize Part 68 with Canada's CS-03 after working five years with Canada's TAPAC group They did their homework well, getting industry concurrence before filing. Canada approved its version on August 14, 1996. Because of the impact of Congress' revision of the Telecommunications Act, the FCC was swamped with 80 new rulemakings to be completed by August of 1996, and so approval of the harmonized Part 68/CS-03 was delayed. It was approved on July 30, 1997.. The Commission instituted a "negotiated rulemaking" procedure for requiring phones in the workplace to be hearing aid compatible. As a result, approval took slightly more than a year and was announced in the Federal Register on August 14, 1996. And, it was announced that the industry will form a new group (Lockheed) to administer the new North American numbering plan. A waiver process was adopted that allows manufacturers to register stutter dialtone devices. Currently, there are almost 1400 telcos still in business. In 1996, Digital Equipment Corporation introduced its line of Alpha microprocessors using 64-bit RISC architecture and operating up to 533 Mbps.


February 1996 - Congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act which requires FCC to develop 80 new rulemakings within a six-month period leading to increased competition is all aspects of telecommunications. "Central-office implemented coin phones" are now required to be registered as a result of opening this market to competition.

In early 1996 ANSI approved an ADSL standard for the Discrete Multitone (DMT) version. Another competing concept called Carrierless Amplitude and Phase Modulation (CAP) is currently in the running. The ADSL concept spawned an exposion of related concepts that permit transmission over copper up to close to 100Mbps. New copper fabrication techniques have opened the avenue of very high speed data (multimedia) transmission in excess of 100 Mbps over useful ranges for premises wiring.

September 1996 - Rockwell announced a 56 kbps modem chip set designed for Internet applications. 56K download (PCM); 33.6 upload (analog). Technical committees start development of standards for this new technology. Ccntroversy erupts over the fact the modulation technology limits the theoretical speed to about 53K because of Part 68's signal power limitation requirements to prevent crosstalk to third parties. Actually, because of line impairments the fastest practical speed is around 42 to 44K.

November 1996. FCC network protection standards for Switched 56 and ISDN go into effect. USTA Annual Report says there are 170 million copper access loops in service nationwide, increasing at the rate of 5 million annually. Internet 2 is proposed to connect university computers together by means of one gigabyte pipes using SONET and ATM networks.

1997 - February 25, 1997 - Lucent announced development of wireless loops with 128K ISDN capability. Rockwell receives FCC registration for its 56K PCM modem to be used by Internet service providers.

June 12, 1997 - The U.S and the E.U. reach agreement on mutual recognition of product testing and approval requirements covering everything from lawnmowers, pharmaceuticals, recreational craft to telecom equipment.

June 17, 1997 - FCC issues NPRM for BICSI petition to require the use of twisted-pair premises wiring to prevent crosstalk. Many issues outanding from the premises wiring docket 88-57 finally resolved. Micosoft buys WebTV that claims to have 85,000 subscribers. Canada releases draft of its proposed ADSL terminal equipment standards covering DMT and CAP/QAM technologies.

July 30, 1997, the Commission approves the harmonization of Part 68 and Canada's CS-03 network protection standards to be effective April 20, 1998.

January 1998, Rockwell, Nortel, Paradyne and others announce an ADSL-lite program called Consumer ADSL or CDSL which will download at about 1Mbps based on CAP technology. In contrast the T1E1 and international standards seem to be heading for DMT technology with download speeds around 6 to 8 Mbps. Other competing modes include Rate Adaptive DSL and another called Multiple Virtual Line (MVL) which can offer up to eight virtual phone lines sharing 768 kbps in one or both directions up to 24 kilofeet and working over in-home wiring.

February 1998 - V.90 56K standard was approved ending months of difficult negotiations and modem wars. Most of the older 56K modems can be upgraded by software downloading to work with the new standard.


Some technical areas for consideration:

  • Equipment installation grounding problems; development of frequency domain test procedures for digital equipment; and confirmation tests of software functions impacting Part 68 requirements.And, something simple (but not easily implemented): getting equipment manufacturers to test their new developments over the full range of loop conditions for verification of satisfactory operation.
  • Prior to 1984, the telephone companies took care of problems such as RFI to telephone, electro-static discharge (ESD), belltap, and lightning surge problems. After that date these problems were the subscribers. The Fortune 500 could handle them easily because they could afford the technical expertise. Not so for residential and small business subcribers. We estimate there are approximately 500,000 annual complaints to broadcast stations and other parties including the FCC. At our request, TIA developed an RFI immunity standard which was released in April 1997. Not much happened until our October 1997 Industry meeting at which we learned that RadioShack and Comdial had been providing RFI-immune phones based on their own standards. We also learned that RadioShack and Siemens had reduced field failures by requiring their phones to be operational after experiencing the standard Part 68 surge test. (Part 68 only requires that after the surge test, the equipment not harm the network.) Most manufacturers apparently are not doing much about improving products because doing so might increase their costs slightly. A "REST Assured" program has been suggested whereby manufacturers can inform the public of products that are free from these problems. So far, not many of the several thousand registrants, other than Radioshack and Comdial and a few others(1) have indicated interest in this program. (The telephone companies and broadcast stations spend millions of dollars annually providing RF filters to the public which are effective perhaps one-third of the time based on FCC studies.)

(1) Aside from Radioshack and Comdial, Able, Avantek, Cidco, Field Success, Lucent, Sinoca,, Tianjin, and Wards have started registering some phones with RFI immunity. Thomson and Panasonic have indicated interest.

Important Recent/Outstanding Rulemakings:

(1) ISDN and Switched 56/64 services ( became effective November 13, 1996).

(2) Harmonization of Part 68/CS-03 (U.S.-Canada Network Protection Standard) approved July 30, 1997.

(3) Premises Wiring Reconsideration Docket 88-57 approved in June 1997.

(4) Wireline hearing aid compatibility for workplace, hotel/motel & hospital phones (became effective August 14, 1996). Requirements for volume controls on all phones to go into effect 1/1/2000.

(5) E911 location of PBX stations. (It may take a year or two more to fully resolve this one).

(6) Nationwide Caller ID (In place for residential subscribers; however, rules needed for PBX, Centrex, Pay Phones, Hotel/Motel Lines).

(7) A new administrator for North American Numbering Plan (Lockheed) was selected.

(8) Stutter dial tone waivers processed to permit registration of these products.

(9) Expedited rulemaking for xDSL is anticipated.

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