ANCHORAGE (AP) -- AT&T Alascom is reducing its work force by almost 9 percent in a move the company said is necessary to remain competitive.
Spokeswoman Meg Sudduth said the downsizing will reduce AT&T Alascom's work force from 420 to 385 employees. It is the first significant layoffs since 1997.
''The customers want lower prices, so we had to lower our costs,'' Sudduth said Monday.
The company, which offers long-distance and Internet service statewide, will lay off 23 maintenance and installation technicians. The other 12 positions won't be refilled when workers retire.
The restructuring has in part come from the company's efforts to stay competitive in the long-distance market, the biggest portion of its business in Alaska.
AT&T in recent months has been fighting to keep customers from being lured away by competitor Alaska Communications Systems' out-of-state calling for a flat rate of $20 a month.
The service, known as Infinite Minutes, was so successful that it boosted ACS' small long-distance revenue 48 percent in the fourth quarter, the company reported last week. ACS is no longer offering the calling plan because it was not profitable.
In response to ACS last fall, Anchorage-based General Communication Inc. -- AT&T Alascom's main competitor -- began offering to residential customers a deal that provides 400 minutes of out-of-state calling and Internet service for $19.99 a month.
AT&T Alascom has continued with its pay-per-minute calling plan, charging 7 cents a minute weekdays and 5 cents a minute on weekends for out-of-state calls. Customers receive 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles for signing up, then 1,000 miles every six months.
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