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SBC to offer long-distance next week

SBC Communications will start offering Texas residents long-distance telephone service on Monday, taking aim at a sector now dominated by AT&T, WorldCom and Sprint.

SBC Communications will start offering Texas residents long-distance telephone service on Monday, only the second "Baby Bell" local phone company that federal regulators have allowed to do so.

Like Bell Atlantic in New York, SBC now becomes a powerful new force in at least one state's long-distance market, taking aim at a sector now dominated by AT&T, WorldCom and Sprint. It also signals the belief among network operators that a combination of bundled communications services for consumers--from Internet access to local and long-distance--is what will separate the winners in the industry going forward.

The company will introduce a flat 9-cent fee for long-distance calls, with no monthly charges, it said. But customers who want to sign up for packages of SBC services, such as wireless, high-speed Internet, or extra calling features, can pay 6 cents a minute for long-distance calls.

"Finally, Texas consumers are going to see what real long-distance competition means," Dave Gallemore, executive vice president of SBC strategic marketing and planning, said in a statement.

The company will work with fiber-optics company Williams Communications, in which it owns a minority stake, for carriage of the long-distance calls.