Long 
Distance Phone Rates Comparison - ABTolls

August 27, 2014

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Reading Your Phone Bill
(and all those little charges)

If you have not yet read ABTolls.com's disclaimer information, please do so before continuing.

It seems as though there are a ton of added charges, taxes, fees (and any other name you can think of for charging you money) on our long distance bills. So first, let us start with a simple statement:

PLEASE READ YOUR BILL

As is the case with any service provider, be they a credit card company or the local gardner, make sure you understand what you are being charged for. Carefully reading your bill before you pay it each month will help you prevent slamming, cramming, calls you didn't place, or any other mis-charged items that may show up on your bill.

What's Required Of Them...
Long distance companies are now mandated by the FCC to provide you with information concerning your long distance telephone service. They must provide you with information regarding the rates, terms, and conditions of your service. If a company operates a web site, the FCC requires them to make this information avaialable there. This is part of the FCC's move to detariff the long distance industry. Basically, this means that the long distance providers must tell us, the consumers, what they charge and how they charge it, rather than just telling the government (that's the way it used to be). So thes companies "convey" this info to us through their web sites, our bills, and emails. Long distance companies often include information about changes in terms and rates as inserts with your bill. Be sure to read all those inserts.

Long distance providers are also required by the FCC to:

  • Be clearly organized
  • Identify the service provider associated with each charge;
  • Highlight new service providers and indicate the date the provider change was made;
  • Contain full and non-misleading descriptions of charges;
  • Identify those charges for which failure to pay will not result in disconnection of the customerís basic local service; and
  • Provide a toll-free number for customers to call in order to lodge a complaint or obtain information. If the customer does not receive a paper telephone bill but instead accesses that bill only by e-mail or over the Internet, the telephone company may provide the customer with an e-mail address or Web site for inquiring about charges.

  • Use standardized labels on bills when referring to certain line item charges relating to federal regulatory action

Decifering The Code...
As if it wasn't bad enough that there are all these different charges, each company calls each charge something different! Here we have all the common aliases we have heard of for the various charges. If you find a charge on your phone bill that isn't listed here, please let email it to fees so we can get it added to the list. Thanks!

  • 911 Service Fee This fee is charged in some localities to support the emergency 911 telephone service. It normallyappears on the local telephone bill.

  • Alaska USF (Aka: Alaska Universal Service Fund) This is charged only in Alaska as a set percentage of intrastate usage. It serves a similar purpose in the State of Alaska as the USF serves on a national basis.

  • Alaska Universal Service Fund See Alaska USF.

  • CA High Cost Fund Surcharge See High Cost Fund B.

  • CA Relay and Comm Surcharge See California Relay Service.

  • California Relay Service (Aka: CA Relay and Comm Surcharge) This surcharge appears only in the State of California, and is charged as a set percentage of your intrastate service regardless of which telephone service provider you use. It enables people with hearing and/or speech disabilities who use text telephones to communicate with people using standard voice telephones.

  • Carrier Line Charge See PICC.

  • Carrier Universal Service Charge See USF.

  • CHCF-A, CHCF-B See USF.

  • Colorado Universal Service Fund Currently 2.0% of all instate telecom services. See Colorado PUC site for details www.dora.state.ci.us

  • County Sales Tax Some counties charge a special telecommunications sales tax. This applies equally to all carriers serving that county.

  • Customer Line Charge See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.

  • District Tax Some districts charge a special telecommunications sales tax usually to support a school district, new construction of sports or entertainment complexes, or similar purposes. This applies equally to all carriers serving that district.

  • FCC Approved Customer Line Charge See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.

  • FCC Primary Carrier 1st Line See PICC.

  • FET See Federal Tax.

  • Federal Access Charge See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.

  • Federal Excise Tax See Federal Tax.

  • Federal Tax (Aka: FET, 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. It was then phased out. A 1 cent Federal tax was then applied in 1914 on toll telephone and telegraph messages costing more than 15 cents. That was again repealed in 1916 and reinstated in 1918. It was repealed again in 1924, and reinstated again in 1932 at a rate of 7%. It then continued to rise to a high of 25% on messages costing more than 24 cents (and 15% on local service charges) in 1944. It was reduced to a flat 10% tax on toll calls and 9% on local in 1954. The rate gradually was reduced to as low as 1% in 1982. It was raised again to 3% for toll calls and 2.7% for local in 1983. For more details on this tax, you can contact the Internal Revenue Service Excise Tax Branch or take a look at the FCC Reference Book, Rates, Price Indexes and Expenditures for Telephone Service.

  • 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. Currently, as of July 1st, 2002, the FCC places a maximum on this charge of $6.00 for the first line and the lower of actual costs or $7.00 for non-primary lines in residences. For multi-line businesses the maximum allowed is the lower of actual costs or $9.20 per line. More information is available from the FCC.

  • Federal Universal Service Fund Surcharge See USF.

  • Frequent Flyer Excise Charge Some of the long distance companies provide you with frequent flyer miles based upon your telephone usage. These used to be entirely free. Some are now charging a fee for these miles in the form of this charge. Be sure to ask your company how much extra those "free bonus miles" will cost.

  • Gross Receipts Tax Surcharge See State and Local Taxes.

  • High Cost Fund B (Aka: CA High Cost Fund Surcharge) This is charged only in California as a set percentage of intrastate usage. It serves a similar purpose in the State of California as the USF serves on a national basis.

  • 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.

  • Kansas USF (Aka: Kansas Universal Service Fund) This is charged only in Kansas as a set percentage of intrastate usage. It serves a similar purpose in the State of Kansas as the USF serves on a national basis.

  • Kansas Universal Service Fund See Kansas USF.

  • LD Line Charge See PICC.

  • LNP See Local Number Portability.

  • Local Connect Surcharge (Aka: LCS) This fee started to appear recently on certain long distance company's bills. It is NOT a mandated fee and is entirely a function of the company charging it. You should view this few as an additional monthly fee. Some companies choose to market "No monthly fee" plans yet still charge an LCS monthly fee. Don't be misled by this.

  • 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.

  • Local Sales Tax Some local governments charge a special telecommunications sales tax. This applies equally to all carriers serving that locality.

  • Monthly Fee Some calling plans have a per month fee in addition to all of the other fees. This differs from a monthly minimum. It is a set fee regardless of how many calls you make each month.

  • Monthly Minimum This fee is charged by some carriers if your specific rate plan has volume requirements. This differs from a monthly fee. If, for instance, your plan requires a minimum per month and you only made of calls, you would see the remaining as a monthly minimum fee.

  • Monthly Recurring Charge This is a fee charged by some carriers on some rate plans to qualify you for the rate plan. For instance, when they advertise "$4.95 a month and 5 cents a minute" the $4.95 is the Monthly Recurring Charge. We incorporate this charge into all of our rate tables so you can compare the cost of plans equally.

  • Municipal Franchise Fee See State and Local Taxes.

  • Municipal Right of Way Tax on local telephone services designed to cover the cost of managing and maintaining municipal rights of way. Frequently they are charged as a flat per line fee each month, depending on the municipality. This is charged the same by each provider.

  • Municipal Utility Tax See State and Local Taxes.

  • National Access Contribution See USF.

  • National Access Fee See PICC.

  • Nebraska USF (Aka: Nebraska Universal Service Fund) This is charged only in Nebraska as a set percentage of intrastate usage. It serves a similar purpose in the State of Nebraska as the USF serves on a national basis.

  • Nebraska Universal Service Fund See Nebraska USF.

  • Network Access Charge For Interstate Calling See Federal Subscriber Line Charge

  • Number Portability Service Charge See Local Number Portability.

  • 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. The Calling Card Rates page includes the carrier specific payphone surcharge fee in its analysis.

  • PICC (Aka: National Access Fee, LD Line Charge, Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier Charge, Presubscribed Line Charge, Regulatory Related Charge, FCC Primary Carrier 1st Line, 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!

  • Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier Charge See PICC.

  • Presubscribed Line Charge See PICC.

  • Property Tax Recovery Fee This is a carrier specific charge only charged by certain carriers. It is not a tax. You should view it as an addition to whatever rates the carrier quotes to you.

  • PSC Fee Some states add a surcharge to fund their Public Service Commission. This charge applies equally to all carriers.

  • PUC Fee Some states add a surcharge to fund their Public Utility Commission. This charge applies equally to all carriers.

  • Regulatory Related Charge See PICC.

  • Single Bill Fee If you are billed for both local and long distance service on one phone bill, you may soon be charged a fee by your long distance provider for this convenience.

  • State Additional Charges See State and Local Taxes.

  • State Deaf and Disabled Fund Some states charge a tax to help provide access to telephone and teletype services for deaf and disabled people. This charge applies to all carriers serving the state equally.

  • State and Local Municipal Taxes (Aka: Gross Receipts Tax Surcharge, State Additional Charges, Interstate Tax Surcharge, State Universal Service Fund, State Infrastructure Maintenance Fee, Municipal Utility Tax, Municipal Franchise Fee) State and local governments assess various taxes 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 Infrastructure Maintenance Fee See State and Local Taxes.

  • State Universal Service Fund See State and Local Taxes.

  • Subscriber Line Charge See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.

  • SLC See Federal Subscriber Line Charge.

  • Telephone Relay Charge Subsidized disabled access to the telephone system via special equipment and PC's. This is charged by all carriers equally.

  • Texas Inf Fd See Texas Infrastructure Fund.

  • Texas Infrastructure Fund (Aka: Texas Inf Fd) This is charged only in Texas as a set percentage of intrastate usage. It serves a similar purpose in the State of Texas as the USF serves on a national basis. It is in addition to the Texas Universal Service Fund.

  • Texas Poison Control Surcharge Pays for the Texas Poison Control Network - 6 centers that are available 24 hours a day to provide information on poison remedies. You can reach the center at 1-800-POISON1. This is charged at .03 percent of the intrastate long distance charges.

  • Texas Universal Service See Texas Universal Service Fund.

  • Texas Universal Service Fund (Aka: Texas Universal Service) This is charged only in Texas as a set percentage of intrastate, international, and interstate usage that meets 2 of 3 conditions (originates in Texas, terminates in Texas, billed to an address in Texas). It serves a similar purpose in the State of Texas as the USF serves on a national basis. It is in addition to the Texas Infrastructure Fund.

  • Universal Connectivity Charge See USF.

  • Universal Service Charge See USF.

  • Universal Service Fund Charge See USF.

  • USF (Aka: Universal Service Fund Charge or Universal Service Charge, Carrier Universal Service Charge, Federal Universal Service Fund Surcharge) 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.

  • Utah USF (Aka: Utah Universal Service Fund) This is charged only in Utah as a set percentage of intrastate usage. It serves a similar purpose in the State of Utah as the USF serves on a national basis.

  • Utah Universal Service Fund See Utah USF.

  • Wyoming USF (Aka: Wyoming Universal Service Fund) This is charged only in Wyoming as a set percentage of intrastate usage. It serves a similar purpose in the State of Wyoming as the USF serves on a national basis.

  • Wyoming Universal Service Fund See Wyoming USF.


ABTolls.com is the first long distance comparison site to track the differences in long distance carrier specific fees such as the Federal USF, PICC, and payphone surcharges. We have included these fees into our rate calculations since they were first charged in 1998 so that you can truly compare "apples to apples" on equal footing. Some telephone companies are not forthcoming about how they recharge for the Federal USF and PICC fees, and we refuse to list the rates of any carrier that will not disclose their method of calculating these fees. These fees can make a large difference in your monthly bills, and it pays to understand how they affect your individual calling patterns. If you would like to see an example of the differences these carrier specific fees can make, visit our Fees Comparison page. Or, you can simply go directly to our rates comparison which takes these carrier specific fees into account.


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