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For a dozen years, regional phone service was a monopoly of the regional Bell companies created by the breakup of the old American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1984. But with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was intended to open local and regional service to long-distance companies, a sometimes-bewildering choice of providers and plans is being offered for regional calling. Long-distance carriers like AT &T,; MCI and Sprint have started providing regional service, and the regional Bell companies have responded to the competition with rate cuts. Consumers will find that it pays to shop around in today's $6 billion residential regional market. While consumers vary greatly in their calling patterns, it is not impossible that a household with moderate phone usage will be able to save 10 to 40 percent on its regional phone bill. "One of the goals of the Telecommunications Act is to provide competition for local and regional phone service, "said Tracy Waldon, an economist with the

 
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[NEWSPAPER] New York Times (1997)