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Last month, consumers from around the United States joined forces to help free conference call providers fight the big long distance service providers: AT&T/Cingular, Qwest, and Sprint. While you may likely have missed this battle, you may have been impacted by the tactics employed by the long distance carriers.

If you have recently had difficulty using a free conference call service, you likely thought the call organizer screwed up and sent the wrong call-in number or that the service was down. You may have chalked that experience up to the nature of the free conference call market. After all, if it’s free, you can expect a few glitches along the way.

But the real reason your free conference call failed was more likely because the long distance carriers were blocking calls to free conference call lines. When the free conference providers realized what was happening, they quickly set up new free conference call-in numbers. As soon as the long distance carriers gained knowledge of the new numbers, they were blocked. And thus, a vicious game of cat-and-mouse call blocking began.

Infuriated, customers, who had become accustomed to the free conference call model, rebelled. They complained to the carriers, to the government, and to the media. In relatively short order they pressured the big long distance carriers to end their call blocking strategy.

According to Global Conference Partners, an organization that provides free conference call technology, the battle between the long distance carriers (and those who provide free access to conference call services) is over. Well, almost. The free conference providers claim one provider, Sprint, is still trying to disrupt calls, “while hiding behind claims of congestion and busy signals.” Providers say they’re helping consumers overcome Sprint’s efforts by providing alternate dial-in numbers. As a result, most calls are going through and most free conference services have returned to normal.

We’ll keep you posted on this issue.