Hunts Joe: "In the UK many years ago, you couldn't buy a telephone for your home, you had to rent it from the GPO."
And in the US, phones were rented from the Bell System / AT&T, built by Western Electric. Phone lines, even within your house, were owned by Bell. That is, until the whole Bell Breakup thing that made the Baby Bells compete with each other--then everyone got to assert ownership over their phones and wires, and the Baby Bells and all successors (including the current AT&T) started to charge handsomely for any wire repair/installation work in your house.
Twist: during my latest move, AT&T ran a new twisted pair from the outside panel to my "gateway" (VDSL aka Uverse) for free considering they were keeping a loyal 11-year customer (completely bypassed all the existing phone wiring; didn't need all those active jacks anyway).