When I was growing up the telephone company was AT&T, Bell Telephone. If you wanted local service you rented the phone from Bell and also paid them for the dial tone. The same for long distance. With the exception of a few itty bitty phone companies, mostly in rural areas, AT&T was the only game around.
Just over twenty years ago, the Justice Department broke up the monopoly and forced the company to spin off their local service into seven regional companies (now merged into four) that became money grubbing monopolies of their own. And now the whole history comes full circle as one of those "Baby Bells", SBC Communications is planning to buy Ma Bell.
The big get bigger and the service gets worse. Somethings never change.