January 30, 2015
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The telecommunications industry is full of jargon that befuddles the best of us. This glossary is an attempt to at least let you know what some of those acronyms are and perhaps what they mean. This glossary is an ongoing endeavor. This site is committed to continually updating and improving its definitions to benefit you, the consumer. Everyone wants to make informed decisions. Therefore, if you have any comments or contributions, please send email to glossary.911 Service Fee
This fee is charged in some localities to support the emergency 911 telephone service. It normally appears on the local telephone bill.
Automatic Number Identification (ANI)
A service that provides the receiver of a telephone call with the number of the calling phone. This is what makes caller ID work. The telephone service provider determines whether and how this information is transfered. The service is often provided by sending the digital tone multi frequency (dual tone multi frequency) tones along with the call.
Baby Bells - See BOC
A release form that authorizes a customer's long-distance phone service to be switched to (another) long-distance carrier, or reseller. Also know as a Letter Of Agency or LOA.
BOC - Bell Operating Company(Baby Bell)
One of the 19 companies carved out of the AT&T monopoly by the 1983 Consent Decree to provide local phone service or IntraLATA services.
The time increment used to determine the length of a call. Providers may charge per minute or per 6-seconds or some other time increment.
BTN - Billing Telephone Number
The phone number associated, for billing purposes, with the Working Phone Number.
A telecommunication credit card with an AuthCode (authorization code) for using a long distance carrier when the customer is away from their home or office (ANI).
A telecommunications provider which owns switch equipment.
Carrier Line Charge - See PICC.
CHCF-A, CHCF-B - See USF.
Two or three digit codes used for International calls outside of the North American Numbering Plan area codes. Dial: 011 + country code + city code + local phone number) (e.g. "011 + 91 + 22 + 123- 4567" 91 = India, 22 = Bombay).
The practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Entities that fraudulently cram people appear to rely largely on confusing telephone bills in order to mislead consumers into paying for services that they did not authorize or receive.
What the FCC has to say about it
Customer Line Charge - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.
The exact date/time that a phone number, circuit, etc. is scheduled to be (or was) moved from one implementation (carrier, etc.) to another. (e.g. moving an 800 number from MCI to Planet Earth).
Dial Around Service
Dial Around service refers to the services provided to you through access codes and numbers which allow you to bypass your Primary Interexchange Carrier. These may be 10-10XXX, toll free access numbers, and/or calling cards. Generally, dial around refers to services accessed from your primary telephone.
Direct Dial (1+ Service)
This refers the service you get from your Primary Interexchange Carrier, the long distance company that is automatically accessed when a customer dials 1+ Area Code + Number.
Your regular Dial-1 carrier. Call 1-700-555-4141 to find your default carrier.
FCC - Federal Communications Commission
Regulates interstate communications: licenses, rates, tariffs, standards, limitations, etc. Appointed by U.S. President.
Federal Access Charge - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.
FCC Approved Customer Line Charge - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.
Federal Excise Tax - See Federal Tax.
Federal Tax - Aka: Federal Excise Tax
This tax appears on both your local and long distance phone bills. It is charged as a set percentage regardless of which telephone service provider you use. Little known fact is that it started as a temporary luxury tax in 1898 on telephone service to pay for the Spanish-American War. Now the proceeds go to the U.S. Treasury as general revenue, since the war is over. For more details on this tax, you can contact the Internal Revenue Service Excise Tax Branch.
Federal Subscriber Line Charge - Aka: Federal Access Charge, Customer Line Charge, Interstate Access Charge, Interstate Single Line Charge, FCC Approved Customer Line Charge, Subscriber Line Charge or SLC
This federally ordered charge billed by your local telephone company pays part of the cost to the local telephone company of supplying a phone line into your home or business. It is designed to help local phone companies recover the cost of providing "local loops" which refers to outside telephone wires, underground conduit, telephone poles, and other equipment and facilities connecting you to the telephone network. This is NOT a tax. It is a charge that is part of the price you pay to your local telephone company. Neither the FCC nor any other government agency receives the Federal Subscriber Line Charge. The FCC places a maximum cap on this charge.
Gross Receipts Tax Surcharge - See State and Local Taxes
IC - See IEC
IEC - Interexchange Carrier
IC - IXC (IEC is preferred). A company providing long-distance phone service between LECs and LATAs.
Communication between two different LATAs.
Communication between Local Access Transport Areas. 1982 MFJ requires LECs to use an IEC for InterLATA services.
Between multiple nations.
Between multiple states. Interstate communications are regulated by the FCC.
Interstate Access Charge - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge
Interstate Single Line Charge - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge
Interstate Tax Surcharge - See State and Local Taxes
Communication within a Local Access Transport Area. 1982 MFJ allows LEC to handle these calls without an IEC.
Communication within a single state. Intrastate communications are regulated by each state's PUC.
IXC - See IEC.
Local Access Transport Areas (200 in the U.S.). A geographic service area defined in the AT&T Modified Final Judgement. The RBOCs (Baby Bells) and GTE are restricted to operations within, but not between, LATAs. Long distance service within a LATA is provided by the LEC. Service between LATAs is provided by an IEC. LATAs are represented by a 3-character code, and there are 164 of them across the country.
LEC - Local Exchange Carrier
The local or regional telephone company that owns and operates lines to customer locations and Class 5 Central Office Switches. LECs have connections to other COs, Tandem (Class 4 Toll) offices and may connect directly to IECs like WorldCom, AT&T, MCI, Sprint, etc.
Arrangement whereby the Local Exchange Carrier invoices the customer for some or all telecommunications services.
LOA - Letter Of Agency
A document that authorizes changing the service provider. (See RespOrg, 800 Portability)
LNP - See Local Number Portability.
Local Number Portability - Aka: Number Portability Service Charge or LNP
This fee started to appear on many local telephone bills in February 1999. This fee allows local telephone companies to recover costs associated with supporting the technical capability to allow a consumer or business to retain their existing telephone number when switching to another local provider. Local companies are allowed, but not required, to pass on these costs. However most do. They are only allowed to charge this fee for five years from the first date they start to charge the fee, and are not allowed to start charging the fee until they can provide the ability to the end-user of retaining their phone number in the event of switching local telephone companies. Local telephone companies are required to make this "number portability" service available within 6 months of being requested to do so by another local telephone company wishing to service the area. This is NOT a tax. It is a charge that is part of the price you pay to your local telephone company. Neither the FCC nor any other government agency receives the Local Number Portability fee. Local telephone companies are not allowed to charge this fee for customers on the Lifeline Assistance Program.
Long Distance Carrier
A company providing long-distance phone service between LECs and LATAs.
Minimum Call Length
Some telecommunications providers require that each call be at least some minimum number of minutes in length. The provider will charge you at for at least this minimum length of time independent of whether your call lasted that long or not. This is a very common tactic used by dial-around service providers.
Minimum Monthly Bill
This is a non-technical term to identify the minimum amount you will be charged per month for a calling plan. This amount may include the monthly service charge, Monthly Minimum Usage Charge, PICC, and USF charges. Visit our Understanding Monthly Charges page for more information.
Monthly Fee - See Monthly Service Charge.
Monthly Service Charge - Aka: Monthly Fee
Some calling plans charge you a per month fee simply for subscribing to or using its service. It is a set fee regardless of how many calls you make each month. The Monthly Service Charge differs from a Monthly Minimum Usage Charge fee. Visit our Understanding Monthly Charges page for more information.
Monthly Minimum Usage Charge
This fee is charged by some carriers if your specific rate plan has volume requirements, meaning that you must make a certain dollar amount of calls per month. For example, a plan may require that you make at least $10.00 a month worth of phone calls. If you do not make $10.00 worth of calls, the carrier will charge you the difference as a fee. If, for instance, your plan requires a $10.00 minimum per month and you only made $6.00 of calls, you would see the remaining $4.00 as a monthly charge. The Monthly Minimum differs from the Monthly Service Fee. Visit our Understanding Monthly Charges page for more information.
NASC - 800 Number Administration and Service Center
The organization that administers the SMS/800 system for the reservation, registration and administration of all North American 800 numbers for all carriers.
National Access Contribution - See USF.
National Access Fee - See PICC.
Network Access Charge For Interstate Calling - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge
Number Portability Service Charge - See Local Number Portability.
NPA - Numbering Plan Areas
North American "Area Codes." (3 digits: 2-to-9, 0-or-1, 0-to-9. Middle digit to expand soon).
One Plus - 1+
Customer ability to access the long distance service provider of their choice by first dialing 1, then the long distance number. Equal Access guaranteed by the 1982 AT&T MFJ. 1+ is an outbound service where the calling station pays the charges.
Payphone Access Fee
Under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, payphone operators must be compensated by long-distance operators for toll-free calls made through their phones. Most long distance companies pass this charge on to you on your long distance bill for calling card calls placed from a payphone or toll free calls received by you from a payphone. This is NOT a tax, and can vary from carrier to carrier. Our Calling Card Rates page includes the carrier specific payphone surcharge fee in its analysis.
Payphone Surcharge - See PICC.
PIC - Primary Interexchange Carrier
The IEC that 1+ calls are routed to. Specified by an ANI.
A LEC charge for changing the PIC. Often paid by the new IEC. If a LEC sends a PIC charge to a customer, the new IEC will typically credit the customer's account.
A unique identifying number assigned to each long distance provider. Your local telephone company uses this code to indicate who your long distance service provider is.
A PIC Freeze prevents the long distance from being switched for the specified ANIs. Useful to prevent slamming, or the unauthorized switching of long distance services.
A request record sent to a LEC asking for an ANI to be activated, deactivated or changed in some way.
PICC - Aka: National Access Fee, Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier Charge, Presubscribed Line Charge, Regulatory Related Charge, or Carrier Line Charge.
Pronounced "pixie." This charge started on January 1, 1998 as part of the FCC overhaul of telephone fees. Long distance companies pay a flat fee to the local telephone company when you pre-subscribe your telephone line to their long distance service. (Sometimes referred to "Dial 1" or "Plus 1" service) The charge is designed to compensate the local telephone companies for the costs associated with providing "local loop" service. If a consumer or business has not selected a long distance company for its telephone lines, the local telephone company may bill for the PICC. Although every long distance company is charged the same flat rate per line, long distance companies are allowed to recharge you for this in any way they see fit, and each company uses a different method to charge this carrier specific fee. It is normally not presented to you in such a way that you would think it is a competitive pricing issue. But it is! Some companies do not charge this fee at all, and some charge a carrier specific flat fee. We offer full details of the amazing differences in this rate on the Fees Comparison page. This is NOT a tax. Please note that on July 1, 2000 the FCC ruled that long distance companies no longer will have to pay this fee to local companies for residential lines, or single line businesses. The charge continues for multiple line businesses. Many long distance companies are still charging you for this, even though they aren't paying it anymore!
POTS - Plain Old Telephone Service - Modification of Point of Termination? (e.g. "I want to make a pots change for my tollfree number," meaning I want to change where my tollfree number rings? Thanks, Kat_Mama)
Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier Charge - See PICC.
Presubscribed Line Charge - See PICC.
Primary Interexchange Carrier
The long distance company that is automatically accessed when a customer dials 1+.
The process by which a requested (ordered) service is designed, implemented and tracked (providing the subcomponent parts).
PUC - Public Utilities Commission
The agency regulating intrastate phone service.
Regulatory Related Charge - See PICC.
RBOC - Regional Bell Operating Company
One of the seven "Baby Bell" Companies created by the 1982 Modified Final Judgement that specified the terms of the AT&T Divestiture. The seven RHCs include: NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, Southwestern Bell, U.S. West, Pacific Telesis, and Ameritech. "RBOC" is sometimes used informally to refer to the Regional Holding Companies defined in the 1982 MFJ. (See Bell Operating Companies - There are 19 BOCs).
Slam / Slamming
An end user that is PICed (having your long distance carrier switched) without their permission. An RBOC Slam Fee must be paid for each slam.
State and Local Taxes - Aka: Gross Receipts Tax Surcharge, Interstate Tax Surcharge, State Universal Service Fund
State and local governments assess this charge in different ways and at different rates. Proceeds go to the local governing body. It can be imposed on the revenues of local telephone companies, and long-distance companies operating within a state. Although these taxes vary by your location, they are the same for all providers serving that area. For more information about these taxes, please contact your local and state tax offices. You can find their number in the government section of your local telephone directory.
State Universal Service Fund - See State Universal Service Fund.
Subscriber Line Charge - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.
SLC - See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.
Universal Connectivity Charge - See USF
Universal Service Charge - See USF.
Universal Service Fund Charge - See USF.
USF - Aka: Universal Service Fund Charge, Universal Service Charge, CHCF-A & CHCF-B
This charge started on January 1, 1998 as part of the FCC overhaul of telephone fees. All companies that provide telephone service between states pay a set percentage of their previous year's billings. The charge is designed to ensure affordable access to telecommunications services for telephone customers with low incomes, telephone customers who live in areas where the cost of providing telephone service is extremely high, libraries, schools, and rural health care providers. Although all companies providing interstate telephone service are charged the same percentage of their billings, companies are allowed to recharge you for this in any way they see fit, and each company uses a different method to charge this carrier specific fee. It is normally not presented to you in such a way that you would think it is a competitive pricing issue. But it is! Some companies do not charge this fee at all, some charge a carrier specific flat fee, others charge a percentage of your interstate and international usage, while others charge a percentage of your entire bill. We offer full details of the amazing differences in this rate on the Fees Comparison page. Although the charge the companies pay is in essence a tax, the fee on your bill is carrier specific, and is NOT a set tax. The telephone company keeps any difference between the USF fees they collect and the charge they pay to the Universal Service Fund.
Click here to visit the FCC and to see the current contribution factor.
WTN - Working Telephone Number
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