Talk Isn't Cheap . . .

Single Scene

Fortunately for homebased businesses, fallout from the Telecommunications Act hasn't hindered some carriers' full-steam push into the homebased market. Perhaps the biggest buzz for home office users is coming from telecom companies' "single package" services. These packages bundle all your telecom needs (local, long-distance, paging, cellular, Internet access and so on) into one account. Not only can this type of service save you money and make paying your bills simpler, but it can improve your lifestyle and the way you conduct business by unchaining you from your home office.

MCI One, MCI's telecommunications package, is probably the most visible example of a single-package service. MCI One lets you wrap all your communications options--standard phone service, cellular, paging, Internet and e-mail--into one package with one bill. There are several noteworthy aspects of this service for home office users. Perhaps the most useful is the MCI One Number option, which can be programmed to call any one of three numbers before it sends your callers to voice mail or your pager. This makes reaching you wherever you are relatively painless. MCI One is fully customizable to your needs--you pay only for the products and services you need.

Of course, all these services come with a price. And, though MCI is extremely competitive in terms of local and long-distance calling, you should analyze all the costs (including its relatively high calling-card costs) before abandoning your current carrier.

Finding a provider that not only offers a good package but is reliable is also a must. "My last long-distance carrier went out of business, costing me a full day of business. I couldn't make long-distance calls--something that may have cost me clients and, ultimately, income," says Art Feinglass, owner of Mostly Murder, a homebased audience-participation murder-mystery company in New York City. After researching the long-distance climate, Feinglass switched to a new service that has lower long-distance rates and no minimum-charge or length-of-call requirements.

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