Cincinnati Bell

Last updated
Cincinnati Bell, Inc.
Traded as NYSE:  CBB
S&P 600 Component
Industry Telecommunications
Headquarters Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Area served
Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Hawaii
Key people
Products Local telephone service, IPTV
RevenueIncrease2.svg $1.38 billion (2018)
Increase2.svg −$69 million (2018)
Number of employees
4,300 (2019)
  • Cincinnati Bell Telephone
  • CBTS
  • Cincinnati Bell Any Distance
  • OnX Canada
  • Hawaiian Telcom

Cincinnati Bell is a regional telecommunications service provider based in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. It provides landline telephone, fiber-optic Internet, and IPTV services through its subsidiaries Cincinnati Bell Telephone and Hawaiian Telcom, which are the incumbent local exchange carriers for the Cincinnati and Dayton metropolitan areas and Hawaii. Other subsidiaries provide enterprise information technology services and long distance calling.

A telecommunications service provider (TSP) is a type of communications service provider that has traditionally provided telephone and similar services. This category includes incumbent local exchange carriers, competitive local exchange carriers, and mobile wireless communication companies.

Cincinnati City in Ohio

Cincinnati is a major city in the U.S. state of Ohio, and is the government seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located at the northern side of the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers, the latter of which marks the state line with Kentucky. The city is the economic and cultural hub of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, the fastest growing economic power in the Midwestern United States based on increase of economic output, which had a population of 2,190,209 as of the 2018 census estimates. This makes it Ohio's largest metropolitan area and the nation's 28th-largest. With a city population estimated at 302,605, Cincinnati is the third-largest city in Ohio and 65th in the United States. Cincinnati is also within a day's drive of 49.70% of the United States populace.

Ohio U.S. state in the United States

Ohio is a Midwestern state in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Of the fifty states, it is the 34th largest by area, the seventh most populous, and the tenth most densely populated. The state's capital and largest city is Columbus. Ohio is bordered by Pennsylvania to the east, Michigan to the northwest, Lake Erie to the north, Indiana to the west, Kentucky on the south, and West Virginia on the southeast.


Cincinnati Bell was founded in 1873 as a telegraph company and for much of its history was a Bell System franchisee. In the 1990s, Cincinnati Bell expanded into Internet access and mobile phone services. The company divested its mobile phone service in 2014 to focus on enterprise and fiber-optic services. [2]

Bell System telephone service provider

The Bell System was the system of companies, led by the Bell Telephone Company and later by AT&T, which provided telephone services to much of Canada and the United States from 1877 to 1984, at various times as a monopoly. On December 31, 1983, the system was divided into independent companies by a U.S. Justice Department mandate.

Internet service provider organization that provides access to the Internet

An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers may be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-owned, non-profit, or otherwise privately owned.

A Mobile Network Operator or MNO, also known as a wireless service provider, wireless carrier, cellular company, or mobile network carrier, is a provider of wireless communications services that owns or controls all the elements necessary to sell and deliver services to an end user including radio spectrum allocation, wireless network infrastructure, back haul infrastructure, billing, customer care, provisioning computer systems and marketing and repair organizations.


The Cincinnati and Suburban Telephone Company Building is a registered historic building. CincinnatiBell.jpg
The Cincinnati and Suburban Telephone Company Building is a registered historic building.

Cincinnati Bell was founded as the City and Suburban Telegraph Association on July 5, 1873. Founder Charles Kilgour had run the Cincinnati Street Railway with his brother John but became homebound after an accident and began running his business from home via telegraph. The City and Suburban Telegraph Association ran telegraph lines between homes and businesses beginning in 1873, three years before the invention of the telephone. In 1878, it gained exclusive rights to the Bell franchise within a 25-mile (40 km) radius of Cincinnati, becoming the first telephone exchange in Ohio and the tenth in the United States. It has substantially the same three-state incumbent local exchange carrier territory today. On August 21, 1877, it signed its first telephone customer, the Cincinnati Gas-Light and Coke Company (later known as Cincinnati Gas and Electric). [3] [4]

Cincinnati Street Railway

Cincinnati Street Railway (CSR) was the public transit operator in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1859 to 1952. The company ceased streetcar operations and was renamed Cincinnati Transit Commission.

Electrical telegraph A telegraph is a form of communication in the 1830s

An electrical telegraph was a point-to-point text messaging system, used from the 1840s until better systems became widespread. It used coded pulses of electric current through dedicated wires to transmit information over long distances. It was the first electrical telecommunications system, the most widely used of a number of early messaging systems called telegraphs, devised to send text messages more rapidly than written messages could be sent.

Telephone Telecommunications device

A telephone, or phone, is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic signals that are transmitted via cables and other communication channels to another telephone which reproduces the sound to the receiving user.

The company was renamed Cincinnati and Suburban Bell Telephone Company in 1903.

From 1930 to 1952, the company converted its exchanges from staffed switchboards to dial service. Seven-digit dialing was introduced in 1962. [3] In 1968, electromechanical switching equipment was replaced by one of the first electronic switching systems. [4] The company formally simplified its name to Cincinnati Bell in 1971.

In telecommunications, an electronic switching system (ESS) is a telephone switch that uses digital electronics and computerized control to interconnect telephone circuits for the purpose of establishing telephone calls.

In May 1999, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio awarded Cincinnati Bell Long Distance the right to offer local wireline telephone service in 55 counties outside its incumbent territory and the company began to resell business local phone service in these counties, in competition with incumbent carrier Ameritech. [5] [6]

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the public utilities commission of the U.S. state of Ohio, charged with the regulation of utility service providers such as those of electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications as well as railroad safety and intrastate hazardous materials transport.

AT&T Teleholdings, Inc., formerly known as Ameritech Corporation, is an American telecommunications company that arose out of the 1984 AT&T divestiture. Ameritech was one of the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies that was created following the breakup of the Bell System. Ameritech was acquired by SBC Communications in 1999 which subsequently acquired AT&T Corporation in 2006, becoming the present-day AT&T Inc.

During the 1990s, Cincinnati Bell acquired a nationwide transmission network formerly known as IXC Communications and changed its corporate name to "Broadwing Communications," although the local telephone operations continued to operate under the traditional Cincinnati Bell name. The acquisition fell short of expectations due to intense competition and lackluster demand and left Broadwing with over $2 billion in debt. [7] In 2004, the holding company divested the long-distance operation as Broadwing Corporation and changed its name back to Cincinnati Bell.

In 2002, Cincinnati Bell sold Cincinnati Bell Directory, consisting of its directory operations, to Spectrum Equity. The resulting company is named CBD Media. The sale marked the first time a former Bell System-affiliated company had sold off its directory operations. In 2003, when BellSouth exited the payphone market, some former BellSouth payphones in Kentucky were sold to Cincinnati Bell.

In 2017, Cincinnati Bell acquired Toronto-based OnX Enterprise Solutions for $201 million. [8] [1] On July 2, 2018, Cincinnati Bell acquired Hawaiian Telcom Holdco, Inc., parent of local telephone company Hawaiian Telcom, for $650 million. [9] The Hawaiian Telcom acquisition grew Cincinnati Bell's fiber network to over 14,000 route miles (23,000 km). [10]

Relationship to the Bell System

Cincinnati Bell's residential landline service continued to use the classic Bell logo until 2016. CincinnatiBell (vectorized).svg
Cincinnati Bell's residential landline service continued to use the classic Bell logo until 2016.

Cincinnati Bell and Southern New England Telephone (SNET) were the only two companies in the old Bell System that operated independently because AT&T Corporation only owned minority stakes in the companies. Therefore, neither is considered a Regional Bell Operating Company (RBOC), AT&T was not obligated to dispose of their ownership stakes in the companies, and restrictions placed on the Baby Bells did not apply to these two companies. AT&T owned 32.6% of Cincinnati Bell until 1984, at which point the shares AT&T owned were placed into a trust and then sold. [12] In 1998, SNET was bought by SBC Communications (Now the new AT&T), an RBOC, and in 2014 was sold to Frontier Communications, a company with no relation to the former Bell System; Cincinnati Bell, however, has remained independent.

Cincinnati Bell is the only American Bell System company that continues to publicly do business under the "Bell" name. [2] In July 2006, Cincinnati Bell removed the final iteration of the Bell logo—designed in 1969 by Saul Bass—from most of its corporate branding, leaving only a stylized wordmark. However, the company continued to use the Bell logo in promotional materials for residential landline and long-distance service [13] until another it adopted a new logo in 2016. (BellSouth was the last remaining Baby Bell to still use the Bell logo, but BellSouth was acquired by AT&T later that year, with the BellSouth brand being retired in 2007.)

Service area

Cincinnati Bell's conventional telecommunications services are concentrated in markets where its subsidiaries have historically enjoyed incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) status. Since the 1870s, Cincinnati Bell Telephone has been the ILEC within a radius of approximately 25-mile (40 km) from downtown Cincinnati. As of 2019, the three-state territory consists of:

Beyond its ILEC territory, Cincinnati Bell Telephone additionally serves Mason, Lebanon, and the Dayton metropolitan area through its subsidiary Cincinnati Bell Extended Territories. Hawaiian Telcom, which Cincinnati Bell acquired in 2018, is the ILEC for the entire state of Hawaii. [1]

OnX provides enterprise IT solutions in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom. [1]


Cincinnati Bell has historically focused on traditional landline service, but in recent decades it has expanded into adjacent communications and entertainment services. As of 2017, legacy voice service makes up only a quarter of the company's revenue. [17]

Landline service

Cincinnati Bell provides landline PSTN local and long-distance calling. In recent years, the company has seen subscriptions to these traditional services decline due to competition from cable and wireless providers. [18]

Internet access

Cincinnati Bell offers Internet access to customers in its service area. Its primary competitor for broadband Internet access is Charter Spectrum Internet.

Fiber optics

In late 2009, Cincinnati Bell started offering a fiber-optic communications (Internet, telephone, and IPTV) service called Fioptics, similar to the U-verse service offered by AT&T and the FiOS service offered by Verizon Communications. [19] Cincinnati Bell's Fioptics provides Internet at speeds from 5 Mbit/s up to 1 Gbit/s to over 500,000 homes in the Cincinnati metropolitan area and its nearby suburbs. The availability is limited to areas currently wired for Fioptics, and other Fioptics services are not required. In areas now covered by Fioptics, Cincinnati Bell no longer offers ADSL-only speeds greater than 5 Mbit/s.

As of 2019, Cincinnati Bell's fiber optic network extends nearly 16,500 route miles (26,600 km).


In 2011, Cincinnati Bell became the first telecommunications company to also provide retail energy service. [20] Through a partnership with Viridian Energy, Cincinnati Bell Energy competes with several other alternative electricity retailers for the power generation portion of customers' electricity bills. [18] The subsidiary advertises that its service is entirely sourced from National Wind. [21]

Former services

Wireless telephony

Former Cincinnati Bell Wireless logo used until mid-2006 Cincinnati Bell Wireless (logo until 2006).jpg
Former Cincinnati Bell Wireless logo used until mid-2006

From 1998 until 2015, Cincinnati Bell Wireless (CBW) offered GSM wireless service in southeastern Indiana, southwestern Ohio, and northwestern Kentucky. It was sold at Best Buy, Circuit City (until 2009), Office Depot, and participating Kroger locations. It offered HSPA+ [22] service in most of Hamilton County, Ohio, and parts of surrounding counties; EDGE [23] service in Dayton and Oxford; and GSM service elsewhere. The local coverage area extended north to Celina and Urbana, east to Hillsboro, south to Corinth and Warsaw, and west to Batesville. [24] Cincinnati Bell's prepaid mobile phone products were sold under the same i-wireless brand as an unrelated service by locally based Kroger. [25]

Cincinnati Bell made its first foray into wireless telephony around 1986, when it acquired a 45% stake in Ameritech Cellular. On February 2, 1998, Cincinnati Bell acquired 80% of AT&T Wireless Services's new Cincinnati-Dayton PCS network for over $100 million. Cincinnati Bell's subsidiary Cincinnati Bell Wireless was responsible for marketing and sales, while AT&T Wireless handled technical operations for the joint venture. Wireless service began by June in Cincinnati and by September in Dayton, eventually covering a 21-county area. [26] [27] [28] When AT&T Wireless was purchased by Cingular, now known as AT&T Mobility, control of its 20% stake also passed to Cingular. On February 17, 2006, Cincinnati Bell took full control of CBW by purchasing Cingular's stake for $83 million. As a part of the deal, Cincinnati Bell and Cingular secured lower roaming charges on each other's respective GSM networks. [29]

On April 7, 2014, Cincinnati Bell announced plans to sell its wireless spectrum and other assets to Verizon Wireless, as part of a planned emphasis on enterprise and entertainment services such as Fioptics. [2] [30] Cincinnati Bell Wireless ended service on February 28, 2015. The company's retail locations began selling Verizon products. [31]


Like other Bell System–affiliated companies, Cincinnati Bell published a series of local telephone directories, beginning in 1879. [3] In 2002, it spun off these operations as CBD Media.

Retail presence

Cincinnati Bell originally operated a chain of Cincinnati Bell Phone Center locations until 1992, when it sold the retail chain to AT&T. [32] It reentered the retail space in 1998 with three Store@Cincinnati Bell retail locations. [27] [26] As of 2018, the company operates nine Cincinnati Bell Stores. [33]

Downtown Cincinnati presence

Atrium Two CBTHQbuilding.jpg
Atrium Two

Cincinnati Bell's headquarters are located in the Atrium Two building on 4th Street in Downtown Cincinnati. [34] [35]

The company's former headquarters and telephone exchange on 7th Street is known as the Cincinnati and Suburban Telephone Company Building. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Next door is a data center operated by CyrusOne, a former Cincinnati Bell subsidiary. [36] It originally opened in 1975 as Cincinnati Bell's central Switching Center. [4]

Cincinnati Bell owns the naming rights to the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar line that traverses the downtown area. In August 2016, Cincinnati Bell paid $3.4 million to rename the line for 10 years. [37] From 2007 to 2014 Cincinnati Bell also sponsored the annual Cincinnati Bell/WEBN Riverfest, one of the largest fireworks displays in the Midwest. [38]

See also

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