Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier. A telephone company that provided local service when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed. The Act loosened regulatory barriers, allowing new telephone companies (CLECs) to enter the industry and compete with established telephone service providers.
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An incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) is a local telephone company which held the regional monopoly on landline service before the market was opened to competitive local exchange carriers, or the corporate successor of such a firm.