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Q: Long distance rates during the Bell monopoly ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Long distance rates during the Bell monopoly
Category: Business and Money > Economics
Asked by: toddwc-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 23 Sep 2003 23:11 PDT
Expires: 23 Oct 2003 23:11 PDT
Question ID: 259641
I would like to find a list of long distance rates as they existed in,
say, 1955. Really any period up until around 1975, as there may have
been some regulation that began that brought down the rates. How much
was it to call across the U.S.? What was the rate to call London or
Rome? This is based mostly on personal interest, as I'll watch old
sitcoms that reference long distance rates as though you need to sell
your house to call across country (i.e., Leave it to Beaver, when the
boys call Don Drysdale in L.A.).

Request for Question Clarification by aht-ga on 24 Sep 2003 01:22 PDT

I have found a table of historical rates for calling between several
major US cities, for the period dating from 1950 through to modern
times. In particular, the cities in the comparison are New York, and
alternately one of SF/LA, Chicago, and Philadelphia. This would answer
the first part of your question.

As for the rates to call London or Rome, I have found a graph showing
the change in the cost of a phone call from New york to London over
the years from 1930 through 1990.

Would these suffice to answer your Question?



Clarification of Question by toddwc-ga on 24 Sep 2003 08:09 PDT
Subject: Re: Long distance rates during the Bell monopoly
Answered By: aht-ga on 24 Sep 2003 10:25 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Thank you for your question regarding historic long distance rates. I
have found the following information which should provide you with the
answer you seek.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all
communications carriers in the US to regularly report on their rates,
and makes a summary of this information available annually as part of
their "Statistics of Common Communications Carriers" package.

The package for 1994 contains a table (in Lotus 1-2-3 format, which MS
Excel can open) showing the AT&T rates from 1950 through 1994, for
calls from New York to SF/LA, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The most
recent package (for 2001) contains the rates for 1995 through 2001, if
you require them.

You can find the 1994 package on the FCC website at the following

Index for 1994 package:

ZIP file containing the chart you want (table 7.1):
(look at file "947-1.WK3").

An example of the data, for 1950:

New York-LA, 5 minute call: $3.70
            10 minute call: $6.70

If you use the CPI calculator found at the Federal Reserve website:

you can convert these 1950's dollars into 2003 dollars, resulting in

New York-La, 5 minute call in 1950, in 2003 dollars: $28.19
            10 minute call in 1950, in 2003 dollars: $51.04

which is a far cry from the TV commercials you see these days for $1
for 30 minutes anywhere in the US!

To see how international long distance rates have similarly changed,
take a look at pages 10-11 of the following presentation (PowerPoint

In this chart, presented by Dr. Robert J. Beck at the 2001 Global
Studies Summit Institute (University of Wisconsin), he comments on how
a 3 minute telephone call from New York to London in 1930 cost the
equivalent of $300 in 2001 dollars. In the chart, one can extrapolate
that in 1950, the same call was between $50-75 (again in 2001
dollars). Definitely a far cry from our current <$0.05/minute rates
for the same call!

I hope this information helps. That phone call to Don Drysdale
probably cost the equivalent of several months' allowance for the


toddwc-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Long distance rates during the Bell monopoly
From: aht-ga on 24 Sep 2003 00:39 PDT
Here's an interesting excerpt for you:

"The ad points out that a call from Boston to Los Angeles costs two
dollars for the first three minutes. That's in 1955 dollars. Adjust
the figure for inflation and those three minutes would cost you
$12.67. And you could only get that rate if you called after 6 PM, or
on Sunday."

- "One Ringy Dingy...", an article by Wally Bock, 19 August 2002.

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