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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

AMERITECH (AMERICAN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES CORP.)

AMERITECH (AMERICAN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES CORP.)

AMERITECH (AMERICAN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES CORP.) is the Chicago-based holding company founded in 1983 to receive all shares of 5 telephone companies: Illinois Bell, Indiana Bell, Michigan Bell, Wisconsin Bell, and Ohio Bell from the divestiture of AT&T. The new company subsequently organized subsidiaries for mobile communications service, directory advertising and publishing, customer sales and service, development, and lease financing for products and services. The Cleveland-based subsidiary, the Ohio Bell Telephone Co., began in Sept. 1879 when Edward P. Wright, superintendent of the Western Union Telegraphy Co. established the city's first telephone exchange, located in the Board of Trade Bldg. on Water (W. 9th) St. Seventy-six people paid $72 per year to join. Wright soon sold the exchange for $16,300 and became vice president of the new Cleveland Telephone Co. After several changes in location, the company moved into its new Main Bldg. at W. 3rd and Champlain in 1898.

When the Bell patents expired in 1894, competitive telephone companies developed. The Home Telephone Co. was organized in Cleveland in 1895; it became the Cuyahoga Telephone Co. in 1898 and had installed 20,440 phones by 1906. Cuyahoga merged with the Columbus-based Ohio State Telephone Co. in 1914. In Oct. 1920 Cleveland Telephone changed its name to Ohio Bell and a year later took over Ohio State Telephone--its only competitor in Cleveland. On 1 June 1927, Ohio Bell officially occupied its new $5 million, 22-story building at 750 Huron Rd., the same year it started to transfer the Main and Cherry exchanges to new dial system facilities enabling callers to bypass the operator and dial phone numbers themselves. By 1951 Cleveland had 600,000 phones. In 1964 the company moved its headquarters to Erieview Plaza and by mid-April 1966 all Greater Cleveland phones had been given 7-digit numbers, replacing the exchange names used since 1897. The company's electronic switching system, installed in 1967, allowed it to offer call-waiting, call-transfer, and 3-way calling services to customers. By 1982 the company was building a new $50 million, 16-story office building at E. 9th and Lakeside. In 1999, Ameritech merged with SBC Communications Inc. After SBC acquired AT&T in 2005, Ameritech was renamed AT&T Teleholdings, Inc.