What's the plan? It's your call

Feel like you're getting a long-distance runaround?

Earnest pitchmen (seen that talking touch-tone-phone guy on TV?) throw so many plans and "10-10s" at us that the supposed simplicity of the dialing formula gets strained like a high-tension line under a broken bough.

Chasing the best per-minute rate offered by battling carriers like AT&T and MCI Worldcom can leave you forgetting from week to week where the household's long-distance "loyalty" lies.

I'd have to ask my spouse.

The Internet, as always, claims to have answers. With $1.4 billion in investments from Yahoo! and AT&T, Net2Phone, a service that lets users place calls from their computers, is making waves. It boasts of "95 percent savings," for example, on international calls.

Next month, Pagoo.com says it will launch "the first true Internet phone company." (It's keeping details shrouded under nondisclosure agreements. We've signed up for a test later this week.)

As today's lead story explains, the key is knowing your own calling patterns and needs, and finding the deal that serves them.

The result may surprise you. Married to mobility? You might just shift the bulk of your calling to that slim portable you tote.

A relative in New York uses a cellphone plan where a total of $50 - including tax, surcharges, and roaming fees - buys her 200 minutes' worth of calls to anywhere in the United States.

She keeps a basic long-distance service hooked up at home. That line rarely gets used. Its per-minute rate beats that of the cell plan. But she figures she'd be paying for the cellphone anyway. For her, it's worth the extra cost.

Have you found a great deal? Let us know. We'll share the news.

*Reach us at work@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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