Competitive Local Exchange Carrier

Definition of Competitive Local Exchange Carrier

A Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) is a telecommunications provider that competes with the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) within a specific region. These carriers access existing telephone infrastructures to offer phone, internet, and other telecommunication services to customers. The establishment of CLECs helps encourage competition, reduce prices, and improve service quality in the telecommunications market.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Competitive Local Exchange Carrier” is:kəmˈpɛtɪtɪv ˈloʊkəl ɪksˈʧeɪndʒ ˈkæriər

Key Takeaways

  1. Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) are companies that provide telecommunication services in competition with the incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs).
  2. CLECs can offer a wider range of services and generally provide lower rates than ILECs, which benefits consumers with more choices and cost savings.
  3. They operate by either building their own network infrastructure or leasing and reselling services from ILECs, allowing them to offer alternatives to traditional landline service providers.

Importance of Competitive Local Exchange Carrier

The term Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) is important in the field of telecommunications as it signifies the emergence of competition within local telecommunication markets.

Previously, these markets were dominated by monopolies, known as Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs). The establishment of CLECs, enabled by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in the United States, allowed for improved consumer choice, enhanced service quality, and spurred technology innovations by offering alternative services, pricing, and infrastructure.

This increased competition not only benefits customers but also drives the overall growth and development of the telecommunications industry.


A Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) serves a critical purpose in the telecommunications industry by promoting competition, diversifying service offerings, and fostering innovation. CLECs were introduced as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which aimed to break the monopoly held by the local telephone companies, known as Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs). By offering an alternative to the existing local exchange carriers, CLECs contribute to a more competitive landscape, ultimately resulting in better quality services, additional features, and more favorable pricing for consumers.

CLECs generally differentiate themselves by targeting niche markets and offering customized solutions tailored to the specific needs of their clients. These providers are typically able to deploy advanced communication and networking technologies at a faster pace than their incumbent counterparts, which can include services such as broadband internet access, Voice over IP (VoIP), and cloud-based solutions.

By catering to various industries ranging from small businesses to large enterprises, CLECs help promote a dynamic telecommunications environment that continuously evolves to meet the changing demands of modern consumers. As a result, the presence of CLECs in the market helps promote a healthier ecosystem that benefits customers by providing greater choice and value.

Examples of Competitive Local Exchange Carrier

AT&T Inc.: AT&T is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, offering a wide range of services, including wireless, broadband, and landline services. As a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC), AT&T operates in multiple geographical areas and provides local phone, data, and internet services in direct competition with other carriers such as Comcast and Verizon. This competitive environment helps promote lower prices and a wider array of service offerings for consumers.

Comcast Corporation: Comcast is a global media and technology company providing cable, broadband, and telephone services. As a CLEC, Comcast Business Services segment offers a range of telecommunications services, including voice, internet, and data services to residential and business customers. Comcast competes with other carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, striving to provide better value and innovative services to meet the demands of a rapidly-changing telecommunications market.

Windstream Communications: Windstream is a provider of advanced network and communications services, including cloud computing and managed services. As a CLEC, Windstream operates in various local markets throughout the United States, offering voice, broadband, and data services. The company competes directly with other local exchange carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Frontier Communications, delivering a wide range of products and services while focusing on customer satisfaction and cutting-edge technologies.

FAQ – Competitive Local Exchange Carrier

What is a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC)?

A Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) is a telecommunications service provider that operates within the same local service area as the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC). CLECs compete with ILECs by providing phone, internet, and other telecommunication services.

What is the difference between an ILEC and a CLEC?

An Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) refers to the original telephone service provider in a specific local area, often holding a monopoly over local telephone services in that area. A Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) is a new provider that enters the market to compete with the ILEC for customers and providing alternative choices for telecommunication services.

Why do CLECs exist?

CLECs exist primarily to increase competition in the telecommunications industry. The rise of CLECs began after the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which aimed to promote competition and reduce the control of incumbent providers. This act opened up the local exchange market to new competitors, allowing CLECs to enter and offer alternative communication services to customers.

What services do CLECs provide?

CLECs offer a range of telecommunication services. These may include local and long-distance phone service, broadband internet access, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and data transmission services. They can also offer competitive pricing and innovative service packages to attract customers away from the established ILECs.

How do CLECs compete with ILECs?

CLECs use different strategies to compete with ILECs on the local market. Some resell services they purchase from ILECs, while others build their own communication networks or lease infrastructure from other providers. They may also offer innovative service bundles, competitive rates, and personalized customer service to differentiate themselves from ILECs and attract new customers.

Related Technology Terms

  • Telecommunications Act of 1996
  • Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC)
  • Local Loop Unbundling (LLU)
  • Interconnection Agreement
  • Access Tandem Facility

Sources for More Information


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