CONSUMER NOTES EQUAL ACCESS LONG-DISTANCE DIALING

If you live in the Dallas area, you’ve probably already received a letter from Ma Bell warning that you’ll soon have to pick a long-distance service-and it doesn’t have to be Ma Bell. If you don’t make a choice, the phone company will make it for you by assigning you to one of the numerous companies now operating in Dallas. Yes, it’s another step in the continuing divestiture of AT&T.

The telephone company is not offering you the choice out of the goodness of its heart; it’s responding to federal court orders requiring that all long-distance companies have “equal access” to customers. What that means is, if you want to use MCI or Sprint instead of AT&T, you will be able to place 1+ long-distance calls from your home in lieu of complicated and lengthy numerical codes now used.

The equal access process began in August 1984 and is scheduled to be completed by September 1986. Southwestern Bell says that letters offering the choice have been distributed to roughly two-thirds of all Dallas customers, and the final wave of letters is scheduled to be mailed next month.

Choosing one long-distance company over another won’t make anyone rich, but let’s face it: A buck is a buck. About 90 percent of the nation’s phone callers spend $25 or less on their long-distance phone bill each month, according to Samuel A. Simon, president of Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC), a consumer group that compares long-distance companies.

TRAC recommends that a customer analyze his own longdistance calls in detail, considering more than a dozen factors ranging from billing increments to availability of credit card payment. For $1 and a self-addressed stamped envelope they’ll send you a residential long-distance comparison chart that should help you decide. (Send requests to TRAC, P.O. Box 12038, Washington, D.C., 20005. TRAC also has a toll-free teleconsumer hotline, 1-800-332-1124.)

Meanwhile, for a rate comparison of companies that offer equal access service in Dallas, the chart above, compiled by TRAC, will get you started.

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