Government sanctioned monopolization

In 1934, the government set AT&T up as a regulated monopoly under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, in the Communications Act of 1934. As a result, by 1940 the Bell System effectively owned most telephone service in the United States, from local and long-distance service to the telephones themselves. This allowed Bell to prohibit their customers from connecting phones not made or sold by Bell to the system without paying fees. For example, if a customer desired a type of phone not leased by the local Bell monopoly, he or she had to purchase the phone at cost, give it to the phone company, then pay a 're-wiring' charge and a monthly lease fee in order to use it. In 1949, the United States Department of Justice alleged in an antitrust lawsuit that AT&T and the Bell System operating companies were using their near-monopoly in telecommunications to attempt to establish unfair advantage in related technologies, especially the fledgling computer industry. The outcome was a 1956 consent decree limiting AT&T to 85% of the United States' national telephone network and certain government contracts, and precluding the Bell System from extending its reach into the fledgling computer industry and from continuing to hold interests in Canada and the Caribbean. The Bell System's Canadian operations included the Bell Canada regional operating company and the Northern Electric manufacturing subsidiary of the Bell System's Western Electric equipment manufacturer. Northern Electric Company and Bell Canada were spun off in 1956, as separate compan es outside of the Bell System proper. The Bell System's Caribbean regional operating companies were sold to the ITT Corporation, known at the time as International Telephone & Telegraph Co. The Bell System also owned various Caribbean regional operating companies, as well as 54% of NEC and a post-World War II reconstruction relationship with NTT before the 1956 boundaries were emplaced. Before 1956, the Bell System's reach was truly gargantuan. Even during the period from 1956 to 1984, the Bell System's dominant reach into all forms of communications was pervasive within the United States and influential in telecommunication standardization throughout the industrialized world. The 1984, Bell System divestiture brought an end to the affiliation branded as the Bell System. It resulted from another antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1974, alleging illegal practices by the Bell System companies to stifle competition in the telecommunications industry. The suit was settled on 8 January 1982, superseding the former restrictions that AT&T and the DOJ had agreed in 1956. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also referred to as the Justice Department, is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries. The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate and is a member of the Cabinet. The current Attorney General is Eric Holder.