10-10-321 is a United States long-distance phone service best known for its prolific television and direct mail advertising in the late 1990s. 10-10-321 was the first mass-marketed service of its type, and it and the similar 10-10-220 and 10-10-900 services were all owned by Telecom USA, which was owned by MCI. All services of its kind are known as interexchange carriers, which essentially allow consumers to bypass, or "dial-around" their primary long-distance carrier and use a different one.
The services debuted in the late 1990s, originally as 10-321 (and its numerous variants) before the telephone industry expanded carrier access codes to seven digits instead of the original five. Although "dial-around" interexchange carriers existed prior to the debut of 10-10-321, these were among the first to feature a mass multimedia advertising campaign.
The services were advertised heavily, using celebrities such as Alf, John Lithgow, Terry Bradshaw, Reginald VelJohnson, John Stamos, Tony Danza, Doug Flutie, James Garner, Christopher Lloyd, Dennis Miller and George Carlin. This ubiquitous presence on television led to a spill-over into pop culture for a brief time. Each service advertised rates that were significantly lower than most telephone operators were charging at the time; 10-10-321, for instance, was a straight pay-per-minute service charging 10 cents per minute, while 10-10-220 was mostly a pay-per-call service, with any call up to 20 minutes charged a flat 99 cents, and both services charged the same rate regardless of time of day, a rarity for long-distance service at the time.
By the early 2000s, the steep discounts were no longer offered, rates increased as much as 80 percent in fall 2002, with 10-10-321 going from 10 cents a minute to 18 cents on October 1, 2002. A year earlier, a 9.9 percent "Universal Service Fund" charge had been added. The television advertising has since become much less common. In addition, the widely increased use of cell phones in the early 2000s, and subsequent decline in the use of landline phones, has rendered the service somewhat antiquated. Much of this is because many phone service plans do not charge additionally for long distance calls; voice over IP in particular renders the distinction between local and long distance meaningless.
Both 10-10-220, 10-10-321, and other 10-10 services are still available, although at significantly higher prices than originally advertised. The current rate for the 321 service is a flat 30¢ per minute, while the 220 service runs $1.50 for the first 10 minutes and 25¢ for each minute afterward.
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