Buyouts of AT&T, MCI Sign of Long Distance's Demise

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By Bruce Meyerson, Associated Press

NEW YORK The acquisitions of AT&T and MCI by larger rivals are the most dramatic evidence of long distance calling's steady decline as a business distinct from "local" phone service.

But other signs are aplenty.

This past week, in addition to the $6.7 billion takeover of MCI by Verizon Communications, came news of a large budget hotel chain, Microtel Inn & Suites, whose list of amenities has been expanded to include free unlimited long distance and wireless Internet access.

There's little to lose with the new marketing pitch: The calls don't cost the company very much. And with so many travelers toting around cell phones with national calling plans, long-distance calls don't generate that much extra revenue any more, even at the inflated rates hotels often charge.

The past week also brought an announcement from a small company named Northland Cable Television, which introduced unlimited local and long distance for a flat $38 a month in rural areas of the Carolinas served mostly by BellSouth as well as Verizon.

Because such plans have become so prevalent on both wired and wireless phones, the concept of local and long distance as different types of calls may be fading fast among consumers and businesses.

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Jack Decker
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