WSJ.com - Telecom Mergers Limit Choices Of Customers: "The nation's independent long-distance phone industry could be dramatically reduced in the wake of SBC Communication Inc.'s pending purchase of AT&T Corp. and MCI Inc.'s merger talks with Qwest Communications International Inc.
Long-distance giants AT&T and MCI have been fixtures of the nation's households for decades. Despite recent pullbacks from the consumer business, AT&T has about 24 million household customers and roughly three million business customers. MCI serves roughly 14 million homes and about one million businesses of various sizes.
For consumers and companies, whose options for buying phone and data service have multiplied in recent years, the disappearance of the two would mean fewer choices -- and, potentially, higher prices. New technologies, including cable phone service, and wireless and Internet calling, have created alternatives. But for low-tech households, taking advantage of the new options is likely to mean paying an extra bill for a cellphone or high-speed Internet access."