Ma Bell?s 25-year odyssey

From breakups to mergers, a look at the Baby Bells? past 25 years

How the U.S. landline industry become less competitive and more consolidated

It's been 25 years since AT&T agreed to spin off its local divisions into seven separate local exchange carriers. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the Baby Bells have now consolidated into three major landline companies: AT&T, Verizon and Qwest. In this slideshow, we'll examine the immediate after effects of the breakup as well as the several mergers that have helped partially put Ma Bell back together again.

The seven original Baby Bells

The seven Baby Bell companies that formed in the aftermath of the AT&T breakup were NYNEX, which covered most of New England and New York; Bell Atlantic, which covered mid-Atlantic states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia; BellSouth, which covered the Southeastern U.S.; Ameritech, which covered populous Midwestern states such as Ohio, Michigan and Illinois; Southwestern Bell, which covered Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas; US West, which covered the vast majority of states west of the Mississippi River; and Pacific Telesis, which covered California and Nevada. Connecticut was the only state to have its own independent telephone company, called Southern New England Telephone (SNET).

1996: Bell Atlantic gets ball rolling

In the first major regional carrier merger, Bell Atlantic acquired NYNEX, thus consolidating its base throughout the entire Northeastern U.S.

1997: SBC buys Pacific Telesis

In the first major regional carrier merger, Bell Atlantic acquired NYNEX, thus consolidating its base throughout the entire Northeastern U.S.

1999: SBC gets bigger

Not content with expanding its empire to California and Nevada, SBC snatched up Ameritech in a blockbuster $62 billion merger, thus making it the dominant phone company throughout the Midwestern United States. SBC had also acquired SNET one year earlier.

2000: Verizon is born; Goodbye US West

After purchasing independent GTE, Bell Atlantic changed its name to Verizon. Meanwhile, high-speed data service provider Qwest purchased US West, thus making it the top carrier throughout most of the Western US.

2006: AT&T buys last of original Bells standing

By 2006, BellSouth was the last of the original Baby Bells. This all changed when AT&T -- which had been purchased by SBC one year prior -- agreed to purchase the carrier for $86 billion. 25 years after its breakup, a company called AT&T now owns four of the seven regional local phone companies that it had agreed to spin off.

What does the future hold for the U.S. telecom industry?

Have we seen the last of telecom consolidation in the United States? Or will Qwest get swallowed by AT&T or Verizon? Share your thoughts in the comments!