Long Distance Rates

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Are you shopping for long distance rates? If so, be sure to take your time in doing so. It also helps to know that all providers--and there are more than 1,100 in the United States--use the same fiber optic cables and network. Reading the fine print behind offers tends to level the playing field. The quality of your connection will be the same no matter who your provider is. What you pay for with long distance rates is customer service and technical support.

Smaller companies buy access to the network from the larger companies at wholesale rates. They then turn around and sell service to you at a discount. It's a matter of infrastructure. They don't spend as much on marketing. They provide their own customer service and billing systems. Because of this, they're sometimes able to outbid the major telephone companies.

Stand-alone long distance rates run from five to 10 cents a minute among the major U.S. carriers. Among the discount carriers the rates range from about three or four to 10 cents a minute. The bundled rates you see offered, usually by the major providers, are considerably cheaper and are beginning to include unlimited dialing.

Making Your Choice of Long Distance Rates

Because of the fierce competition among providers, marketing is intense. The first thing to know is that federal law and the FCC prohibit any company from changing your long distance provider without your authorization (a practice known as slamming). You want to read offers carefully. Beware of huge discounts, because the comparison is usually misleading. Make sure there's no surcharge for dropping a plan at will. Of course, the best way to make the most of any rate structure is to make sure it meshes with your calling patterns.

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