Review of Industrial Organization
12: 301, 1997.
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The break-up of the AT&T’s Bell System in 1984 was the largest single accom-
plishment of U.S. antitrust policy since the Sherman Act was signed in 1890. The
case and its results have turned out to be accepted as a conspicuous economic and
corporate success, even though there was intense resistance and criticism as the
case began and proceeded after 1974. Indeed the AT&T monopoly had long been
deeply entrenched and was seemingly untouchable.
How America’s leading corporate colossus came to be challenged and felled
is a major topic in policy history. Understanding how this antitrust triumph could
happen against all the odds is a necessary task for everyone interested in U.S.
antitrust and deregulation.
Nowvirtually forgotten is the decisiverole playedby a FederalCommunications
Commission Task Force during 1972–77. With great talent and effort, this Task
Force set about assembling evidence on AT&T’s monopoly-creating behavior in a
variety of markets. The Task Force built up a massive set of information, which was
comprehensive and technically beyond challenge. That evidence quickly became
the essential core of the Antitrust Division’s case against AT&T, leading on to the
break-up of AT&T in 1984.
The Task Force was largely created and led by Manley R. Irwin, with uncom-
mon skill and remarkable courage. His personal and professional contribution was
pivotal to AT&T’s eventual break-up. The Editors consider it important to tell
this chapter in the AT&T divestiture story. Professor Irwin has ﬁnally consented to
explain how the activity progressed, and the Reviewis especially pleased to provide