A telephone company, also known as a telco, telephone service provider, or telecommunications operator, is a kind of communications service provider (CSP) (more precisely a telecommunications service provider or TSP) that provides telecommunications services such as telephony and data communications access. Many telephone companies were at one time government agencies or privately owned but state-regulated monopolies. The government agencies are often referred to, primarily in Europe, as PTTs (postal, telegraph and telephone services).
Telephone companies are common carriers, and in the United States are also called local exchange carriers. With the advent of mobile telephony, telephone companies now include wireless carriers, or mobile network operators.
Most telephone companies now also function as internet service providers (ISPs), and the distinction between a telephone company and an ISP may disappear completely over time, as the current trend for supplier convergence in the industry continues.
Popular culture 
- Comedian Lily Tomlin frequently satirized the telephone industry (and the country's then-dominant Bell System in particular) with a skit playing the telephone operator Ernestine. Ernestine, who became one of Tomlin's trademark characters, was perhaps most famous for the following line: "We don't care; we don't have to. We're the phone company."
- In the satirical 1967 film The President's Analyst, "TPC, The Phone Company," is depicted as plotting to enslave humanity by replacing landlines with mobile phones.
See also 
- Bell Telephone Company, forerunner of AT&T in the U.S.
- Internet telephony service provider
- Competitive local exchange carrier (in the U.S.)
- Communications service provider
- History of the telephone
- Incumbent local exchange carrier (of the Bell System)
- List of telephone operating companies
- List of mobile network operators
- Mobile network operator
- Public switched telephone network
- Telecommunications Industry Association (for the development of U.S. telecom standards)
- Regional Bell Operating Company (in the U.S.)
- Service provider
- Telecommunications service provider
- The Phone Company, free, non-commercial email-to-fax service
- Huurdeman, Anton A. The Worldwide History Of Telecommunications, Wiley-IEEE, 2003, ISBN 0-471-20505-2, ISBN 978-0-471-20505-0
- Village Telco - site about microtelcos