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Sprint To Expand Local Service

The carrier says it will immediately begin offering bundled plans in parts of 36 states and Washington, D.C.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Sprint Corp. announced plans Wednesday to expand its local phone service to most of the country, less than a week after the Federal Communications Commission issued rules essentially preserving that kind of telephone competition.

Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint said it will immediately begin offering bundled calling plans that include local, long-distance, and wireless phone service in selected markets in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Sprint currently offers local phone service to just 5 percent of the United States.

"With this ruling that came out by the FCC last week, what has happened is we now have the ability to offer local, long-distance and wireless to roughly 85 percent of the population of the United States and really be a multi-service communications provider," said Harry Campbell, president of Sprint's mass markets organization.

Last Thursday's FCC order gives states the right to continue requiring the former Bell companies to lease elements of their networks, such as lines and central office switching capabilities, to competitors at wholesale rates.

The four regional phone companies, BellSouth Corp., SBC Communications Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc., have objected to being forced to allow competitors to use their networks at what they call artificially low prices.

Sprint's bundled calling plans will range from $45 per month for unlimited local calling and a block of long-distance minutes to $190 per month for a complete package of unlimited local and long-distance service and unlimited wireless calls.

Unlimited wireless is new from Sprint and only available through a bundled plan, Campbell said.

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst in Atlanta, said the price for unlimited wireless is a good deal for high-end users.

"This is a very important strategic move for Sprint's future. The future is all about bundled services," Kagan said.

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