Local access and transport area
For the purposes of the MFJ, the entire United States was divided into 245 local access and transport areas (LATA). They were in a real sense a totally artificial construct, although they did involve the use of U.S. Census data.
The local exchange carriers (LEC) could only provide what were known as intraLATA services. That is, only calls where the origination point and the termination point were both within the same LATA could be totally handled on the LEC facilities. An interexchange carrier (IXC or IEC), like AT&T, Sprint, or MCI (now a part of Verizon Business), had to provide interLATA service, under equal access rules. This meant that the LEC had to allow any subscriber to access any IEC, on an equal basis, as long as the IEC had a switching office access point (called a point of presence) in the LATA.
Although rather arbitrary, LATAs did preserve common social and economic boundaries that reflected actual calling patterns. It made no sense to have areas where most calls now became long distance calls! In fact, some LATAs spanned states if this boundary preserved a traditional “community of interest” in that local area.
Each LATA was designed to have about 1,000,000 subscribers and similar usage patterns in terms of local and long distance calling. There was much debate about the size of LATAs. If the LATAs were too large, then the LECs would have little need to hand off calls to an IEC, and the monopoly stranglehold would be worse than ever. If the LATAs were too small, then only AT&T would be able to afford switching offices in all of them. As it was, some complained that LATAs were too small, but they were accepted by both sides in the dispute.
The LATA structure continues to exist, but the rules about which companies can carry intraLATA and interLATA calls were changed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TA96). The LATAs themselves, however, have not be redrawn since they were initially agreed upon in 1982.
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