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Business News – Bell Atlantic Debuts ‘Surprise Free’ Long Distance

Posted: 06/2000

Business News

Bell Atlantic Debuts ‘Surprise Free’ Long Distance
BY KHALI HENDERSON

Putting a new spin on prepaid communications, Bell Atlantic Corp.
(www.bell-atl.com) introduced SmartTouch long-distance service, which allows consumers to prepay for long-distance calls made from their home without dialing access codes or
PINs. The plan offers state-to-state direct dial calls for 8 cents per minute and no monthly fee.

SmartTouch customers buy long-distance calling time in advance via credit card or cash payment. And unlike “10-10” dial-around numbers or prepaid calling cards, there are no extra digits to dial when calling from home –customers place their calls as usual.

A voice prompt at the beginning of each call says how much money is in the customer’s account and the number of minutes they have for the call. A prompt at the end of the call gives them their remaining balance in dollars. Only the customer can hear the account status information on the call.

“SmartTouch underscores our commitment to provide ‘surprise-free’ long distance,” said Maura Breen, president and chief executive officer of Bell Atlantic Communications Inc., the business unit that provides consumer long-distance service. “SmartTouch takes the sting out of monthly phone bills by offering one low, flat rate for state-to-state calls, eliminating confusing monthly charges and letting consumers know up front exactly what they are spending for long distance.”

The 8-cent rate includes all applicable fees, taxes and surcharges except the monthly long- distance access fee ($1.47), which Bell Atlantic is waiving until July 31 of this year.

SmartTouch is available to consumers in New York State and nine states outside Bell Atlantic’s service area including Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. SmartTouch was expected to be available in California, Idaho and Minnesota in May.

Bell Atlantic collaborated with United States Advanced Networks, Atlanta, Ga., to develop the SmartTouch IP-based technology, for which the patent is pending. SmartTouch gives customers round-the-clock access to their account balance and call activity via
http://www.mysmarttouch.com or by dialing “0-0” from their home phone.

Customers can add more time to their account 24 hours a day via credit card by dialing “0-0” and following the prompts on the voice response unit, or by calling Bell Atlantic customer service at +1 888 599 0107. In addition, New York customers can visit an authorized Bell Atlantic payment center and add time to their SmartTouch account using cash or a credit card. All purchases are posted to the customer’s account immediately, so there is no waiting time before making calls.

In coming months, consumers will be able to set up automatic payment to their SmartTouch account on the first of the month or every time the account gets to a certain balance.


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