Now Thereís No Excuse Not to Phone Home

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Remember when you had to wait until 11 p.m. for it to be cheap enough to call home? Within months you may be able to call around the clock and still not ring up any charges. Thatís right: completely free long-distance phone calls from Maine to Maui. The Federal Communications Commission, which has forced open the floodgates of competition, is about to create several new gushers by letting local phone companies offer long-distance service. At least one independent company is already offering free long distance if you sign up for its monthly Internet service.

But the agency isnít stopping at the U.S. border. This week the FCC is going to unstop the bottleneck that has made calling internationally the only exorbitantly priced relic in the telephone system. The agency may force Comsat, the monopoly that controls outgoing calls from the U.S., to allow other providers in. Now if only the FCC could do something about that annoying international time difference.