Flat Rate Long Distance

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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In a world of drive-through banking and satellite TV, flat rate long distance shouldn't seem like a major technological triumph. For the entirety of telephone history, however, callers have been charged variable rates depending on when and where they were calling. You're not charged more to drive at peak hours on the freeway. Nor are you charged more for that burger just because it's lunch time and more people are hungry. So what gives?

The truth is, phone networks, until recently, were horribly inefficient. Voices traveling through copper wire have their advantages--copper is actually a superior medium for conduction. However it takes a lot of acreage and labor to implement a copper network. Fiber optics are much more efficient all around.

The Rise of Flat Rate Long Distance

As more and more fiber optic cable replaces the old-economy wires, building and repairing phone networks gets increasingly inexpensive. Add to that the relatively negligible cost of internet communication and other wireless forms, and the downward pressure on POTS forces prices to new lows. That, in turn, has required long distance calling companies to settle on flat rate long distance services to help attract new customers (as well as keep existing ones).

Thanks to flat rate international calls, you can talk to China for five cents a minute, no matter what time of day it is. Call Russia for eight cents a minute, Hong Kong for six, Taiwan for nine. If you're Colin Powell and for some reason are forced to foot your own bill (fat chance), make a conference call to France, Germany, Japan, and Canada for a total of less than a quarter a minute. Go ahead, you can afford it. You're the Secretary of State.

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