There are codes your phone company would prefer you didn't know--codes that would give you access to cheaper long-distance carriers that bypass your primary service. "The industry has a dirty little secret," says Robert Pokress, founder and CEO of MediaCom, a manufacturer of PC-based telephone software in Bedford, Mass. "You don't have to be locked into one long-distance company."
Long-distance carriers buy access to the existing telephone infrastructure in bulk at discounted rates and resell it. To take advantage of this peculiar arrangement, Pokress developed the PhoneMiser service (www.phonemiser.com) to find the cheapest rate for long-distance calls. The service consists of a software program and a hardware device that plugs into the parallel port of a PC. Each time you dial a long-distance number, PhoneMiser routes the call by using special codes to access the cheapest carrier. The software costs just under $50, but Pokress estimates that it could save small businesses more than 50% on their phone bills.