LEC (local exchange carrier) is the term for a public telephone company in the U.S. that provides local service. Some of the largest LECs are the Bell operating companies (Bell operating company) which were grouped into holding companies known collectively as the regional Bell operating companies (regional Bell operating company) when the Bell System was broken up by a 1983 consent decree. In addition to the Bell companies, there are a number of independent LECs, such as GTE.
LEC companies are also sometimes referred to as "telcos." 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 (local access and transport area) or to interexchange carriers (interexchange carrier) such as long-distance carriers AT&T, MCI, and Sprint.