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SBC gives small business a price break

The Baby Bell overhauls its phone and broadband service for businesses with fewer than 50 employees by providing the same discounts it offers larger companies.

SBC Communications is cutting its telephone and broadband packages down to small businesses' size.

The telecommunications giant on Monday introduced a program under which some voice and broadband services sold to companies under 50 employees will be discounted between 25 percent and 40 percent, according to an SBC representative. In addition, SBC will begin offering "build your own bundle" programs, which let companies use any combination of SBC services.

Previously, bundling and discounts were perks SBC offered only to larger businesses. The Baby Bell hopes deep discounts and a smorgasbord sales approach will attract more customers.

"This is a significant departure from the one-size-fits-all offerings that SBC and its competitors offer small businesses," the representative said.

Will Stofega, a telephone industry analyst at market researcher IDC, said most telephone providers are likely to retune their products to attract more small business customers. A souring economy and the growing sophistication of phone networks on all levels of business is finally opening the door for such efforts, he said.

SBC's competitors, Verizon Communications and BellSouth, have been "making moves" in the same direction as their rival, Stofega said. "I don't think SBC is catching anybody flatfooted," he added.

Karolyn Fritz, executive director of business marketing at SBC, acknowledged Monday that extending discounts to even more customers is a chancy move in that it could decrease revenue. But it's worth it, especially to win back some customers SBC has lost, she said.

"We believe the small and medium business market is really our sweet spot," she said. "These are segments that are growing."