GTE Corporation, formerly General Telephone & Electronics Corporation (1955–1982), was the largest independent telephone company in the United States during the days of the Bell System. The company operated from 1926, with roots tracing further back than that, until 2000, when it was acquired by Bell Atlantic; the combined company took the name Verizon.
The Wisconsin-based Associated Telephone Utilities Company was founded in 1926; it went bankrupt in 1933 during the Great Depression, and was reorganized as General Telephone in 1934. In 1991, it acquired the third largest independent, Continental Telephone (ConTel). It owned Automatic Electric, a telephone equipment supplier similar in many ways to Western Electric, and Sylvania Lighting, the only non-communications-oriented company under GTE ownership. GTE provided local telephone service to a large number of areas of the U.S. through operating companies, much as American Telephone & Telegraph provided local telephone service through its 22 Bell Operating Companies.
The company acquired BBN Planet, one of the earliest Internet service providers, in 1997. That division became known as GTE Internetworking, and was later spun off into the independent company Genuity (a name recycled from another Internet company GTE acquired in 1997) to satisfy Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements regarding the GTE-Bell Atlantic merger that created Verizon.
GTE operated in Canada via large interests in subsidiary companies such as BC Tel and Quebec-Téléphone. When foreign ownership restrictions on telecommunications companies were introduced, GTE's ownership was grandfathered. When BC Tel merged with Telus (the name given the privatized Alberta Government Telephones (AGT)) to create BCT.Telus, GTE's Canadian subsidiaries were merged into the new parent, making it the second-largest telecommunications carrier in Canada. As such, GTE's successor, Verizon Communications, was the only foreign telecommunications company with a greater than 20% interest in a Canadian carrier, until Verizon completely divested itself of its shares in 2004.
In the Caribbean, CONTEL purchased several major stakes in the newly independent countries of the British West Indies (namely in Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago).
Prior to GTE's merger with Bell Atlantic, GTE also maintained an interactive television service joint-venture called GTE mainStreet (sometimes also called mainStreet USA) as well as an interactive entertainment and video game publishing operation, GTE Interactive Media....LESS