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WASHINGTON — Troops serving overseas could see a 10 percent discount in their long distance calls home, thanks to new rules released by the Federal Communications Commission on Friday.

But the discount only applies to calling cards and collect calls, and troops who use prepaid cards from military stores will see only a nominal drop in their calling costs.

The change is a result of legislation passed last year compelling the FCC to find ways to reduce high calling rates facing some servicemembers calling home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In response, the FCC waived two long-distance fees — the Universal Service Fund contribution and Telecommunications Relay Services fee — from any collect calls made by troops overseas, or any calls made using prepaid and post-paid cards.

The Universal Service Fund fee, which collects subsidies for various low-income and charitable phone programs, represents about 9.5 percent of the cost of most long-distance calls, according to FCC officials. The Telecommunications Relay Services fund pays for phone services for the deaf, and is about 0.5 percent of those calls’ total.

The fee waivers only apply to calls by servicemembers made from overseas, not those within the United States.

The Military Exchange Prepaid Global cards sold at the service exchanges already are exempt from the USF fee. Still, the elimination of the smaller TRS fee is important for troops making calls, according to AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey.

“Anything that saves them money is good news,” he said.

The biggest savings will be overseas troops calling with phone cards sent by friends or family back in the United States, who will see the full 10 percent reduction.

But AAFES officials noted that those cards typically don’t last as long as the ones sold at the exchanges, since military representatives negotiated lower rates through AT&T for those prepaid cards.

Anyone with ideas can submit them for consideration by e-mailing CallHomeAct@fcc.gov.


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