An ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier) is a telephone company in the U.S. that was providing local service when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted. ILECs include the former Bell operating companies (BOCs) which were grouped into holding companies known collectively as the regional Bell operating companies (RBOCs) when the Bell System was broken up by a 1983 consent decree. ILECs are in contradistinction to CLEC (competitive local exchange carriers).
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A "local exchange" is the local "central office" of an LEC. Lines from homes and businesses terminate at a local exchange. Local exchanges connect to other local exchanges within a local access and transport area (LATA) or to interexchange carriers (IXC) such as long-distance carriers AT&T, MCI, and Sprint.