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For Whom The Bells Toll Are you getting the short end of the long-distance stick?

By Elaine W. Teague

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Are major long-distance carriers getting their cake and eatingit, too? It appears so, at least to disgruntled small-businessowners whose monthly long-distance bills have skyrocketed due toaccess-charge reform spawned by the Telecommunications Act of 1996and FCC rulings that took effect January 1. Since we last reportedon the fee hike (see "Business Beat," November 1997), abacklash has ensued, and the SBA Office of Advocacy is calling onthe FCC to reevaluate key elements of the rulings.

What's behind the uproar? Large companies wieldinghigh-volume buying power can negotiate lower rates that neutralizethe impact of the surcharges. Meanwhile, small businesses arebearing the brunt of the reforms, as 60 percent of them don'tseek competitive bids for their long-distance needs, says EricPaulak of Gartner Group Inc., a Stamford, Connecticut, informationtechnology research firm. He adds, "This should serve as awakeup call [to small-business owners] to get out there and forcethe companies to compete."

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