While we wait for the Wired West imbroglio to be resolved, let's look back at the Beechmont Telephone Company. Established in the early 1900s, this was an entirely local effort - Ma Bell was not involved. The single line started at the East Windsor home of Charles H. Ball, and ended in the Peru home of William R. Pierce, by way of Oscar Jacob's house. Other local families joined in over time, as did the East Windsor general store (pictured).
The service was very simple. No central office, no charge for calls. Just one wire, generally strung from tree to tree. Homes on the wire installed their own wall-mounted phone boxes with dry cell batteries and hand-cranked generators for signals. Each signal was heard in every connected location, and anyone could listen in to others' conversations if so moved. In other words, not quite soup-cans-and-string, but a member of the same family.
Pros: Unlimited free calls. Great for gossip. Cons: No long distance. No Google. No Skype....well, the list of cons is pretty extensive, so I'll leave it at that. Bring on the broadband! --- Susan Phillips