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EQUAL ACCESS II: COMING MAY 1 TO A PHONE NEAR YOU; CONSUMER CHOICE MEETS 800 LONG DISTANCE SERVICES INDUSTRY

 McLEAN, Va., April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Sequels rarely live up to their blockbuster legacy. But "Equal Access II: 800-Number Portability" could come close. "Equal Access II" is not a silver- screen fantasy but a real-life drama that, beginning May 1, 1993, promises U.S. businesses lower price, better service and innovation in toll-free long distance services.
 "While Equal Access gave consumers the ability to choose a non- AT&T long distance provider without the `penalty' of a lengthy access code, 800-number portability will give business consumers the ability to choose a non-AT&T 800 long distance provider without the `penalty' of having to change their number. It's Equal Access II, so to speak," said Gordon (Don) Hutchins Jr., a spokesperson for the Telecommunications Resellers Association (TRA).
 TRA is a group of more than 140 competitive long distance providers that will be better able to service inbound long distance needs of U.S. businesses once 800 numbers become "portable" from one long distance company to another.
 Toll-free numbers were introduced in 1967 by AT&T, which maintains the lion's share -- about 75 percent -- of this $7 billion market. In part, AT&T's dominance of the toll-free market is because 800 numbers are not portable. Today, a business wishing to switch providers must change its 800 number.
 "Less than 10 percent of 800 service subscribers are willing to make such a change after having invested years and considerable marketing dollars in promoting a number, such as 800-HOLIDAY or 800-CAR-RENT," TRA's Hutchins said.
 But that's all going to change May 1, 1993, the date the Federal Communications Commission has set for local telephone companies to ready their databases so that 800 numbers can be serviced by any long distance company.
 "Once 800-number portability is implemented, businesses will have control over their 800 number and a choice of 800 service providers," Hutchins said. "With freedom of choice comes lower price, better service and innovation."
 TRA offers the following preview of "Equal Access II":
 -- Lower Price. As Equal Access helped drive down outbound long distance prices by 30 percent since the early 80s, portability is expected to result in lower 800 rates which today carry an average premium of 25 percent over outbound services. TRA member companies can maximize these expected rate decreases with first-dollar discounts on a customer's 800 service regardless of volume.
 -- Better Service. Competition will spur vendors to step up their service quality in order to win and retain customers. Value- added services, such as time-of-day routing, now reserved for large users, likely will be used to attract smaller users as well. Another by-product of 800-number portability is that one vendor now can meet a company's total long distance need, thus centralizing record keeping, billing and management functions. TRA member companies, in particular, are not limited to one network and can tailor a package that splits 800 traffic over multiple networks for increased reliability while rendering a single bill.
 -- Innovation. With portability, 800 subscribers should see packaging of services to meet the need of niche markets. For example, a long distance company might offer a product combining 800 service and interactive voice response technology for costs-effective automated order fulfillment. The ability to attract a larger base will cost-justify a long distance company's commitment to technology and marketing for a target market.
 In the coming months, consumers should see more than 500 competitive long distance carriers jockeying for position in the 800 services market.
 "While each long distance company stands to gain from the removal of this barrier to true competition in 800 services," TRA's Hutchins said, "clearly, the end user is the ultimate beneficiary."
 For more information about 800-number portability, contact TRA at 703-734-1225.
 TRA is a national association representing more than 140 companies involved in the switchless resale of long distance services -- an estimated $1.5 billion slice of the total long distance market. Switchless resellers make volume purchases of long distance services from major long distance companies and offer their customers discounts, customized billing, customer service and consultation.
 -0- 4/27/93
 /CONTACT: Khali Henderson of marcom support services, 602-893-2057, for Telecommunications Resellers Association/


CO: Telecommunications Resellers Association ST: Arizona IN: TLS SU: PDT

MS-LS -- LA015 -- 1122 04/27/93 08:05 EDT
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Date:Apr 27, 1993
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