Sprint began as Southern Pacific Communications Corp. in the 1970s. Southern Pacific had plenty of excess capacity on its internal microwave communications network, and began competing with MCI in selling that capacity for data transfer. SPCC's most notable product was a fax transmission service called SpeedFAX.
Following the Execunet decisions in 1977-78, in which AT&T was ordered to open up its local access points for MCI's dialup long distance service, SPCC decided to get into that potentially lucrative market, and further decided the service needed a new marketing name. An internal contest resulted in the name Sprint, which was later backronymed into "Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications."
In 1983, Southern Pacific sold Sprint to GTE, which was eager to get into the long distance business and changed the name to GTE Sprint. Sprint turned out to be a money loser for GTE, and in 1986, it sold half of the company to another independent phone company, United Telecommunications. United had previously bought a small long distance reseller called US Telecom, which it merged into its half of GTE Sprint, and the combined company was renamed US Sprint.
US Sprint long distance traffic began to travel over United's fiber optic network, which continued to expand. US Sprint's television commercials of the period demonstrated the clarity of voice transmission over fiber optic cables by showing a pin dropping in front of a telephone receiver.
In 1989, GTE sold controlling interest in US Sprint to United, and in 1991, United acquired the rest. United then changed its corporate name to Sprint, and branded its local phone service with the Sprint name.
- History at sprint.com
- Postings to the Usenet newsgroup comp.dcom.telecom via groups.google.com