The DOJ challenge to the AT&T/T-Mobile merger is bringing AT&T to our attention in ways that it hasn’t been in a while, including this great Ars Technica blog post providing a concise guide to the history of AT&T. Matthew Lasar argues that AT&T conquered the 20th century through patents, strategic acquisition, and embracing regulation and using it to its advantage. By so doing it did provide universal telephone access as it consolidated and cemented its monopoly, although some of its ways of using regulation to its advantage proved to be its undoing in the 1982 divestiture.
A highly recommended read, especially if you are not particularly familiar with the history of the telephone industry. That history provides important context for understanding current competition policy issues and events.