CONSUMERS HAVE CHOICES FOR LOCAL PHONE SERVICE. THE MARYLAND PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION WOULD LIKE TO HELP YOU MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION
Consumers do have choices concerning their local telephone service. In 1994, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC or the Commission) authorized the first competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) to begin offering local services in Maryland. In 1995, the Commission issued a decision determining the terms and conditions under which CLECs could provide local service. More recently, the Commission issued an Order to make it easier and cheaper for competitors to buy "access" to Verizon's network. As a result of the PSC's actions, a number of carriers have requested authority to offer local service to residential and business customers.
While many companies have been authorized to offer local service, only a few companies are actually in business. The Office of External Relations recently conducted a survey of the Maryland CLECs to determine the status of local phone competition. You may obtain a list of those companies that are providing local service to residential and business customers from the Commission's website.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SERVICES LOCAL TELEPHONE COMPANIES ARE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE?
Local telephone companies are required to provide residential customers with voice-grade, flat-rate service, within the customer's local calling area. Local companies must provide access to emergency services, long distance companies, directory assistance, operator services, and relay services. Many companies will have available high-speed Internet access in addition to various enhanced services (i.e., Caller ID, Call Waiting, and Voice Mail). These services are optional and not included in the cost of basic service.
Some local companies may offer pre-paid local and long distance service. Companies that provide pre-paid local service do not perform any credit checks and normally the will not charge a deposit. However, the monthly cost for the pre-paid service is higher than what you would pay other companies that do not offer a pre-paid service. Also these companies will block access so that you cannot make any direct-dialed long distance calls. You can purchase a pre-paid long distance calling card if you need to make long distance calls. If you pre-pay for service, make sure you know in advance what is included with the service in addition to whom to contact in case you have a billing problem.
MORE THINGS TO EXPECT AS A TELEPHONE SUBSCRIBER!
- Bills are to be rendered monthly and must contain a clear listing of all charges and credits, in addition to the date due.
- All toll charges must be itemized so as to facilitate their identification.
- The company may assess a 1.5-% late payment charge to any bill or part of a bill not paid within 20 days.
- The company must send written notice, 5 days in advance, if it is disconnecting service for non-payment.
- Customers have the right to change local service providers without having to change their telephone number, provided that the customer remains at the same location.
- 411 service may be blocked. However, if the local telephone provider offers 411 service, then residential customers are entitled to six (6) free local directory assistance calls per month.
- State Law prohibits the unauthorized changing of your local service provider. (This illegal practice is better known as "slamming".) If you were a victim of telephone slamming, you are absolved from having to pay the first 30 days worth of telephone charges.
CLEC Reseller - A competitive local exchange carrier that does not own its own facilities in Maryland. A reseller pays Verizon a fee to use its facilities and then "resell" the service to its customers. Many companies resell service because it is cheaper than installing their own facilities. The company's status as a reseller does not affect the transmission and quality of service.
CLEC Facilities-Based - A competitive local exchange carrier that owns its facilities (i.e., buildings, switches, wires and other hardware) for the purpose of transmitting local service to residential and business customers. An example of a facilities-based carrier might be a Cable TV provider. Cable TV providers can often use existing cable wires and lines to provide local telephone service.
BE A SMART SHOPPER. ASK QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU CHANGE TELEPHONE COMPANIES!
Listed below are some questions you might want to ask a prospective local service provider. Choose a company that will meet your needs at the best price.
- What are the charges for starting new service?
- When might I expect my service to be connected?
- Will I have to pay a deposit?
- What are the costs for basic telephone service? What's included? How does it compare with other companies?
- What will my new bill look like? When is it due?
- Do you provide customized services such as Caller ID, 3-Way Calling, Voice Mail, Return Call, etc.?
- Is there a contract commitment involved? If so, how long? Does it renew automatically? Is there a penalty for canceling service early?
- Is there a 24-hour customer service department? If so, are the calls toll-free?
- Who do I call concerning repairs/billing problems?
- If I need repair work done, how will I be billed?
Have a Question??
Maryland Public Service Commission
Office of External Relations
William D. Schaefer Tower
6 St. Paul Street, 15th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
Voice:(410) 767-8028 or (800) 492-0474
Fax: (410) 333-6844