The Independent movement gathered force and momentum from the very start. Limited at first to the Central States, it has spread until it has found its way into every part of the public domain. For obvious reasons it is weakest in the Eastern States, although in conservative New England, the home of the parent Bell Company, there are to-day from twenty-five to fifty independent exchanges, and numerous plants under construction. A franchise has recently been taken up in New York City by a combination of strong financial interests, which have announced that they will begin operations with an immediate capacity of over two hundred thousand telephones. The remainder of New York State is well developed. There are good exchanges in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburg, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and many other places. These exchanges are all growing rapidly, the Cleveland exchange having increased over 10,000 telephones in twenty months, and Kansas City showing a gain of over 13,000 in two years.
Plants are building in Chicago, Spokane,San Francisco, Portland, and Detroit; franchises pending in Milwaukee, Nashville, Cincinnati, Tacoma, and Omaha. In Portland, Oregon, the second Independent exchange is being built, the first having been purchased by the Bell
Company about four years ago. The latter's action in dismantling the plant and raising the rates aroused such general disapproval that early in 1905 the Council was forced to submit the matter to a popular vote. The election held on June 5 resulted in 13,213 votes in favor of an Independent exchange and 560 votes against it.
In most of the states of the central west the Independent companies reach over seventy-five percent of the post-offices, the farmers' lines being run to these centres, where they are switched from one line to another, and to the long distance lines now reaching from one city to another and across several states. With the foregoing figures before us, is there any reason to question the claim of the Independent companies that they have manufactured and placed in service in ten years (the first three of which were fought every inch of the way, while contending with litigation on patent subjects) more telephones than their competitor has in twenty-seven years, during the first seventeen of which the latter had absolute control of the field? The Independent companies claim to-day over 3,000,000 subscribers, while the Bell Company, according to their August statement, claimed 2,600,000.
By reason of its priority in the field and its ample command of capital, — for it represents over sixty-five per cent of the total telephone capitalization of the United States,—the Bell Company has easily been in the lead over all others in the matter of long-distance toll lines; but even in that regard it is safe to predict that the days of its supremacy are numbered. Independent companies are paralleling the Bell toll lines in every direction. Not only are the former arranging, by a division of the territory they cover, to care for the toll business between counties, but also from state to state, until to-day first-class service is furnished across a number of states. A federation of strong and determined long-distance companies in the Central States is now in existence, which announces that within the year it will be possible to talk from Kansas City to Cleveland and Albany, and from St. Louis and Indianapolis to Pittsburg, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, entirely over Independent long-distance lines.