So off I went in search of the Fredericksburg Sprint long distance POP (Point Of Presence).
Well, I found it and it's another interesting piece of telephone history that all centers around this rather unassuming set of utility boxes and that set of stickers on them…
Set your way back machine for 1983: CSX Corp and SNET (Southern New England Telephone) teamed up to create a new kind of private line service using the latest technology called fiber optics. SNET provided the technical knowhow to make the network work, and CSX had the easements and property rights (being a major train company) to put it in. This new company was called, creatively, “LightNet” and it covered roughly 5000 miles and served more than 40 cities east of the Mississippi.
LightNet provided interstate private line telecommunications service to other common carriers such as US Sprint (heard of them?) and government agencies for voice, data, and video.
This same year LDDS (Long Distance Discount Service) is formed… More about them in about ten years.
In 1985 another new company was formed, “WilTel”, who used decommissioned pipelines as conduits for buried fiber optic lines in operational easements. WilTel's network covered 27 major cities west of the Mississippi… Places like Minneapolis; Omaha; Kansas City; St. Louis; Tulsa; Oklahoma City; Dallas; Houston; Denver; Salt Lake City; Los Angeles; and many others.
In September of 1987 LightNet and WilTel hammered out an interconnect agreement that tied the two networks together and created a coast-to-coast fiber network and laid the ground work for a US spanning pure digital “backbone”.
Essentially the first inklings of a national “internet” that could be accessed by everyone, not just universities, were formed by these two companies back in 1987 and the little buildings right here:
Were instrumental in that… One could literally hang a sign on the fence at this spot that says “The Internet Started Here”.
Ok, so me move onwards. In 1989 WilTel buys LightNet in it's entirety for something like $365 million.
In 1990 WilTel and MCI announce a long term agreement to access each other's fiber networks. This creates a network of over 50,000 system miles, or the biggest fiber based network in the world.
The ownership stickers changed as this box's owners went from Lightnet to WilTel to MCI
In 1992 LDDS from ten years ago has become the fourth largest Long Distance carrier in the country by consuming anything it can fit into it's corporate head.
In 1994 LDDS acquires Dial-Net, renames to LDDS Communications, then acquires IDB-WorldCom.
In 1995 LDDS Communications buys WilTel for $2.5 billion and becomes the provider for GTE, Ameritech, and SBC. The whole mess is renamed to “WorldCom”
In 1996 MFS (yet another octopus telcom company) buys UUNET. In turn WorldCom buys MFS.
In 1997 WorldCom buys CompuServe, buys MCI, and buys Brooks Fiber.
In 1998 MCI-WorldCom becomes WorldCom.
In 1999 WorldCom tries to buy Sprint but is stopped when European and US governments wont allow it. This is probably the reason the Sprint box is on the other side of the pole from the LightNet/WilTel/MCI box…
In 2002 WorldCom files a record bankruptcy case (3.8 billion) and renames back to MCI.
All of this happened around this little set of buildings next to some train tracks in Fredericksburg Virginia… Neat huh?