The government granted these monopolies, and are called a 'natural monopoly'. There were strict service standards that had to be maintained, any increase in fees had to be approved, and the request was posted in the local newspapers, so while a company was given a monopoly it was handcuffed from abusing its position. All these regulations, and safeguards had slowly been away with.
'Failed attempt' means not being able to deliver the message to the end user. Any 'short message' being either SMS, or iMessage is usually meant to be read in no more than a few minutes. The threshold for a failed delivery should be no more than a hour.
That was true not long ago, but now even prepaid plans offer free SMS texting. The only issue I can see if it's sent internationally, but I agree with your idea of the sender being advised that the iMessage didn't go through, and asked how to proceed.
The Public Service Commission used to require Verizon to 24 hour repairs on a certain percentage of lines. If they went above that number they were fined. The 24 hours were from when the outage was reported by the customer, and it was exactly 24 hours after. Now it's in business hours, the clock stops at 5 PM everyday, and the weekends don't count. Service outages that used to last a day now last weeks, and months.
The government used to demand a certain level of quality, and service, but all those regulations were laxed during the Bush administration due to the lobbying of the telcos.There are current movements to force Verizon to run FiOS in the unserved areas in its footprint, and their answer has been no.http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Verizon-is-Unmoved-By-Your-Towns-Rally-Demanding-More-FiOS-131200