People tend to think of the Internet in terms of what it can offer them data-wise, from e-mail and file transfer to Web site downloads. What they don't realize is that the Internet can also handle voice applications. Several products have been designed to help people use the Internet as a long-distance calling network. What's great about this service is that you can talk to almost anyone anywhere in the world while paying just the basic rate to access your local Internet service provider. The drawback is that whomever you're talking to also has to be online to utilize the service. Internet telephony might not be all that glamorous right now, but companies that provide this service hope to change this.
International callers may have even more to look forward to in their call rates: Earlier this year, an agreement announced by the European Commission, which acts as the executive body of the European Union, outlined a plan to open global telephone competition beginning in January 1998. Monopolies have kept prices for long-distance calls high by overcharging long-distance carriers. The agreement will allow Europeans to freely access the telecommunications carrier of their choice by the end of the decade; it should also pave the way for more international business as international toll-free numbers become affordable, allowing U.S. companies to more easily do business with individuals residing in foreign countries.
As a homebased business owner, you can't ignore your telecommunications needs. Now is the time to get up to speed on what you need to make your home office run efficiently and economically. Over the next few years, sweeping changes in the products and services offered to home offices will provide more choices than ever. Take advantage of them.