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Boom Times in Iowa

9:10 AM -- Farmers Telephone of Riceville, Iowa, says long-distance telecom traffic for conference calls has surged from 1.5 million minutes in April 2005 to nearly 25 million in October 2006, according to a recent Associated Press article published in Kiplinger's.

What's fueling it? Often, dirty talk. And the other kinds of conversations that come with for-pay, dial-in telephone services, which often use area codes in rural areas such as Iowa. In fact, Iowa is building a booming business in paid dial-in services, says the Kiplinger's article.

It's good stuff, with even a David vs. Goliath spin. Big carriers such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are protesting the trend, saying these little local telephone companies are paying inadequate termination charges for the volume of the calls, even though such rates on per-call termination fees are highly regulated.

"What AT&T and Sprint and Verizon may not like is the fact that it's successful," said Ronald Laudner, chief executive of Farmers Telephone.

Nice one! Makes sense to us. If these little guys have built a nice little niche business in the corner of Iowa, why should the RBOCs benefit? It's not as if they're being that creative.

— R. Scott Raynovich, Rural Telecom Editor, Light Reading

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