Is a monopolist required to deal with its competitors? That question was the core of a 2004 Supreme Court decision in Verizon Communications v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko. 39 The Trinko law firm bought its local phone service from AT&T. Trinko brought a class action claiming Verizon maintained a monopoly by exclusionary practices. Trinko contended that local phone services had difficulty connecting with the giant regional Bell operating companies’ (Verizon, Qwest, BellSouth, and SBC) local exchange facilities, thus harming competition and consumers. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 specifically requires the regional Bell companies to provide the local phone services with fair, reasonable access. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in favor of Verizon and concluded that antitrust liability in these telephone situations would apply only where a telephone monopolist discontinues a voluntary business relationship with a competitor for the purpose of destroying that competitor. Explain why the Supreme Court decided that Verizon, a telephone monopolist, had no duty to deal with those telephone competitors with whom it had not previously dealt.
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