TELECOMMUNICATIONS MCI, AT & amp;T will raise long-distance call rates

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The nation's two largest long-distance providers, MCI Group and AT & amp;T Corp., are raising rates again even as their turf is being increasingly invaded by local phone companies.
Industry analysts, who expect that No. 3 provider Sprint Corp. will also increase prices, say the big players have little choice but to raise rates and fees to stem revenue declines.
"The price wars in the long-distance business have weakened the industry," said Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta, Ga.-based telecommunications industry analyst. "This is a way of backtracking and trying to make these companies stronger."
What's going up
MCI, beginning Feb. 1, is raising per-minute rates on its Anytime Calling and Anytime Advantage plans to 9 cents a minute from 7 cents. In December, MCI -- whose parent WorldCom Inc. is struggling to emerge from the nation's biggest corporate bankruptcy -- raised rates to 9 cents from 5 cents on other plans.
Industry analysts have predicted price increases will continue, particularly for basic services. They also predict more price incentives on bundled services plans as companies try to steer consumers to plans with a higher profit margin.
Separately, AT & amp;T Corp., the nation's No. 1 long-distance company, disclosed Wednesday that as of March 1, the basic rate for international calls will rise by an average of 8 percent. Callers with special international calling plans won't be affected.
Earlier this week, AT & amp;T raised the monthly charge on its 7-cents-a-minute plan to $4.95 from $3.95.

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