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Long Distance Telephone Calls

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Calls fall in five categories:

1. Local Calls
- Free with flat rate service or message units for measured service. Your Local Calling Area is usually listed in the front your phone book by exchanage. You may be able to extend this with special extended local area plans.

See: Calling Area Tools - Local Exchange Finder SAS - Find Out What Calls Are Included Your Local Plan at

2. Local Toll Calls
- Calls outside the Local Calling Area but within your LATA (Regional Calling Area) (see below). (5-8¢/min.)
3. In-State Long Distance
- Calls outside your LATA.(3.5-14¢/min)
4. Inter-State Long Distance Calls
- Calls to other states. (4-7¢/min)
4. International Calls
- Calls to other countries.
See International Calling for call to and within other countries.

In the past 1 and 2 were handled by your local phone company (e.g. Verizon, SBC, ...) while 3 and 4 are connected through an InterExchange Carrier (AT&T, MCI, ...). The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed Local and Long Distance companies to compete for all calls. This competition was generally not implemented until 2001-2003.

Most Popular Long Distance Companies (based on references in Web pages)
Average rates for CA, NJ and WY, - Other Fees were the same. Total cost varied by less than 40¢ between states.
Source: Most data from
Name Price
Total (1)Rate Other
Fees (2)
AT&T 20 $13.16 10-14¢ $4.76 AT&T
MCI 17 $9.44 10¢ $4.64 MCI/Worldcom
Sprint 19 $15.48 10¢ $9.45 Sprint
Opex 12 $7.47 4.5¢ 4.3-8.2¢ $2.35 Quest
UNITEL 8 $6.79 3.9¢ 3.9-7.9¢ $2.30 Frontier/Global Crossing
PowerNetGlobal (PNG) 12 $8.01 4.9¢ 3.9-6.9¢ $2.95 Qwest
TTI National 16 $11.27 5.9¢ 5-6.2¢ $4.54 MCI/Worldcom
GTC 7 $6.12 5-7¢ $0.42 Williams
IDT $3.95 Frontier/Global Crossing
Pioneer 1 $4.82 3.9¢ 3.9-7.9¢ $0.31
Talk America 15 $11.00 3.9¢ $4.95
ZoneLD 13 $7.10 4.2-8.5¢ $0.40
AmeriCom 3 $5.85 4.9¢ 3.9¢ $0.39
TotalCall International (TCI) 4 $5.89 3.9¢ 5-7.1¢ $0.34
isterra 5 $5.98 4.9¢ 3.5-6¢ $0.45
Buyers On-line 6 $6.05 4.9¢ $0.49
American Telecom Network (ATN) 13 $8.05 6.9¢ $0.49
ECG 14 $9.72 3.9¢ $5.26
Covista Communications (CCI) 12 $6.95 3.9¢ 4.7-10¢ $2.38
RingLD   3.9¢ ? Covista Communications
(1) Price rank is based on average (CA, NJ, WY) price including service fees and per minute rates based on 100 min. of inter-state and 10 min. or intra-state. Your actual bill may include other charges (see below).
Companies used to have different rates in the evenings and weekends, but most have eliminated that now and have the same rate all the time.

(2) Other Fees includes the Monthly Service Fee and Federal Universal Service Fee (USF), but there may be other charges. (see below).

In-State rates were higher in New Jersey than in Calif.. Inter-State rates were generally the same.

You can calculate total cost based on your usage at: SaveOnPhone

Note: This calculation for MCI produced a rate of 7¢/min. plus $4.64 in other fees for a total of $12.64 in New Jersey.
I called MCI and the lowest price they offered me was 5¢/min plus a $2.95/mo. service fee.
My actual MCI bill included the following:
Service Fee $2.95
Federal Universal Service Fee $1.20 (They charge about 10% where FCC only requires 7.25%)
Instate Access Recovery Fee $1.35
Billing Option Fee $2.50 (Get bill on Verizon Statement)
Total Other Fees $8.00
Federal Tax $ .94
State & Local Tax $2.02
Fed., State & Local Surcharges .65
Total Taxes and Surcharges $ 3.61
Phone Calls $6.00
Total Bill: $17.61
Comparison Chart at: ConsumerSearch and

LATA - Regional Calling Areas
When AT&T divested the Local Telephone Operating Companies, Bell Atlantic, Pacific Bell, etc. in 1984, the concept of long distance calling was changed to allow for competition in the Long Distance market. Instead of Area Codes determining what was a Long Distance call, a new geographic area called a Local Access Transport Area (LATA) was established. (Some telephone companies call them Regional Calling Areas.) (See: LATA map at Calls within these areas (IntraLATA calls) were carried by your Local Telephone Company e.g. Bell Atlantic and calls between these areas (InterLATA calls) had to go through a Long Distance Company, also called Interexchange Carriers (IXC) such as AT&T, MCI or Sprint. LATAs were roughly equivalent to the Census Bureau's Metropolitan Stastical Areas (MSA). There is no standard relation between Area Codes and LATAs. For example in 1995 New Jersey had 2 area codes and 1 LATA in North Jersey and 1 area code and 2 LATAs in South Jersey. They have since added several area codes but the LATAs/Regional Calling Areas have not changed.

In the past you had to specify a Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier (PIC), which was the Long Distance company you wanted to use when you placed an InterLATA call. Now you can have local service without a Interexchange Carrier. You can use a Calling Card with an 1-800 access number or a 101 (or 1010) dial-around service for Long Distance.
These require you dial an 800 number and enter a 4-10 digit PIN or dial a Carrier Access Code (was 10-xxx now 101-xxxx)* also called a "dial-around" calling plan. Most of these worked even though you had not signed up with them in advance. Your local telephone company was required to give them your billing address or if they had an billing arrangement with them include the charges on your local telephone bill.


  • Dial-around (1010) Plans (4-10¢/min.)
  • Calling Cards (3-15¢/miin.)

    Some IXCs lease networks from other carriers. e.g. IDT leises network space from Global Crossing, Frontier and Allnet in certain areas; your bill will come from IDT but you are actually served by the other companies.

    IXCs pay an access charge to LECs. Independ companies are allowed by the FCC to charge a slightly higher access charge, so your long distance rates may be up to 1¢/min. higher in these areas.

    * Note: The original dial-around plans used 10 plus a 3 digit code for each carrier. As carriers expanded they needed a 4 digit code. To distinguish between local numbers, regural long distance and internationl dialing these were preceded with "101". The original carriers just added a "0" in front of their old codes and to make it easy to remember advertised it as 10-10-xxx.

    The bottom line is you can have anywhere from one to four or more (Local, Local Toll, Long Distance, Calling Card, DSL) telephone companies.

    See Also:  
     Local Toll Calling at MCI.
    Long Distance (Interexchange Carrier) Carrier Access Codes / PIC Codes
    List at Davis-Company.
    List of sites with Phone Rate Comparisons & Guideshn at Go2Net
    Consumer Alerts and Factsheets at the FCC.
    Long Distance Phone Service at Consumer Search 10-10 Phone Rates. A Bell Tolls - Long Distance Telephone and Telecommunications Clearinghouse Long Distance Rates from M. Wengler Dial-Around Service Page at Yahoo. Rates at Telecom Page at Glossary CIC - Carrier Identification Codes e.g. 0321 CAC - Carrier Access Code e.g. 101-0321 DSL - Digital Subscriber Line (e.g. Bell Atlantic's Infospeed DSL) LEC - Local Exchange Carrier (e.g. Verizon, SBC, Independent Telco...) ILEC - Incumbent LEC. Primary LEC before competition. (e.g. Verizon, SBC, Independent Telco., ...) CLEC - Competitive LEC. A second LEC which has their own switches and competes with the ILEC. They usually lease the wires going to your house from the ILEC. LATA - Local Access Transport Area LPIC - Local Presubscribed Intraexchange Carrier - Local Toll LSP (Local Service Provider) NPA - Numbering Plan Areas (Same as Area Code) PIC - Presubscribed/Primary Interexchange Carrier - Long Distance Company PICC - Primary Interexchange Carrier Charge (also called Carrier Line Charge, Federal Line Charge or Instate Access Recovery Fee ) - This fee goes to the local service provider to cover part of the cost of providing telephone service to a customer. USF - Universal Service Fund (7.25% - 11.5%) -FCC mandated charge to support modern telecommunications services for schools, libraries, low-income consumers, rural health care providers, and high cost service in rural and isolated areas. See also: TeleBright Glossary

last updated 31 Dec 2003