AT&T's Calling Card: Reach Out and Pitch Someone
The high-stakes squabble is over the difference between ordinary long-distance calls, for which long-distance companies have to pay intrastate connection fees to local phone companies, and those "enhanced" with advertising, such as the kind AT&T is selling to
AT&T insists that its "enhanced" prepaid card falls into the category of "information service," like caller ID or voice mail, a category exempt from intrastate and Universal Fund fees.
A portion of that revenue goes to the Universal Service Fund that helps support service to low-income customers and pay for services at libraries. AT&T, for instance, said it pays more than $1.5 billion a year to the fund on its basic long-distance service.
"If you are providing information to the end user, that's an information service," said
In a recent filing with the
The disclosure infuriated AT&T's long-distance competitors and local phone companies who would have been collecting the access charges. They have been pressing the FCC to make up its mind whether this service qualifies as basic or enhanced.
"Our members feel if AT&T gets away with this avoidance in paying access charges and Universal Service support, who else will take advantage of this and why shouldn't they?" said