Federal and state lawmakers believe that every person in America should have access to quality, affordable telecommunications service. In fact, they’ve used the universal service system to do just that. If you participate in social programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid, the national school free-lunch program, or supplemental security income, or if your household income is below a certain threshold level, you may qualify for a discount on your telephone bill.
This “universal service” system includes:
- Lifeline assistance – provides discounts for basic monthly local telephone service
- Link-Up – reduces the cost of initiating new telephone service
- Toll Limitation Service – allows you to control your long-distance charges
- Additional discounts are available for eligible consumers living on tribal lands.
Link-Up America is available to qualified residential customers only. If you qualify for Link-Up America, you will receive a 50% discount off the regular one-time installation charge to connect telephone service at your home. Lifeline assistance is available to qualified residential customers to assist with monthly local dial tone service.
Eligibility for these programs varies by federal and/or state guidelines. To find out whether you qualify for either Lifeline or Link-Up America assistance, you need to fill out standard forms available at our office, as well as at state and local government offices in the area. While we participate in these federal- and state-based support programs, we are not responsible for determining who qualifies and, therefore, who will receive assistance. Customers must meet specific, pre-determined regulations to obtain assistance with their local telephone service. Qualifying is wholly dependent upon these guidelines.
The Universal Service Administrative Co. lists full details and state-specific Lifeline contact information, at www.lifelinesupport.org. Or, you can call toll-free, 1-888-641-8722, if you have questions about the Lifeline, LinkUp, and TLS discounts. For more information about these programs or to apply for assistance, you can call our office at 615-529-2955.
Your bill identifies all charges that if not paid, could result in the disconnection of your basic local phone service; such services are listed as “deniable” charges. Our (STATE PUC) designates the charges we must classify as “deniable,” and we identify those charges on your bill. Non-payment of other, “non-deniable” charges can result in the termination of that specific service, but will not lead to disconnection of local phone service. If you don’t recognize the charges, you should call the toll-free number listed on your bill within 60 days to ensure there is no interruption of the service in question.
In response to consumer concerns about unwelcome telemarketing calls, the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission established the national Do-Not-Call Registry. The registry applies to all telemarketers (with the exception of certain non-profit and political organizations) and covers both interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls. Commercial telemarketers are not allowed to call you if your number is listed on the registry.
You can register your phone number for free, and it will remain on the national Do-Not-Call Registry for five years. You may re-enter your number on the list when the five years have passed, and you may remove your name from the list at any time. The Do-Not-Call Registry will not prevent all unwanted calls. It does not cover:
- calls from organizations with which you have established a business relationship;
- calls for which you have given prior written consent;
- calls which are not commercial or do not include unsolicited advertisements;
- calls by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations.
Consumers may register their residential telephone number, and wireless numbers, on the national Do-Not-Call Registry at no cost by telephone or on the Internet. To register by telephone, you should call 1-888-382-1222. For TTY, call 1-866-290-4236. You must call from the phone number you wish to register. You may also register by Internet. The National Do Not Call List is www.donotcall.gov. Inclusion of your telephone number on the national Do-Not-Call Registry will be effective within 31 days of your registration.
The link for the Tennessee Do Not Call List is www.tn.gov/tra/donotcall/nocall.shtml..
The number of customers considering switching from wireline to wireless service is on the increase. As a community based telecom provider with deep ties here in our service area, we want our customers to know exactly what it means to “cut the cord” – to terminate your traditional phone service and switch to wireless as your sole connection. If you decide to switch your telephone service to a wireless carrier, we want you to have an idea of the differences you can expect between traditional wireline service and wireless:
- If you switch your wireline phone service to a wireless carrier, you will be disconnecting your wireline phone and terminating your traditional local service.
- You may no longer enjoy unlimited local calling; in many cases, you will need to be aware of the number of minutes included in your wireless plan; keep in mind that in many cases (especially if you calling someone using a different wireless carrier), both the calls you make and those you receive will count against your total minutes; and, you will be responsible to pay for any overages.
- When you switch your service to a wireless carrier, you may be required to purchase a new phone and sign an “extended” service agreement; most wireless plans require up to a 24-month service contract, and significant penalties may apply if you decide to terminate the agreement before its expiration.
- You will have to arrange with your wireless provider for a directory listing and directory assistance services.
- In an emergency, E-911 service can pinpoint your traditional home phone, be sure your wireless provider can pinpoint your exact location and not just the general area.
- You will no longer have access to other telecom services available with wireline service or that are connected or confirmed through a wireline phone, such as alarm monitoring.
- In most cases, you will no longer be able to access the Internet using a local, unlimited dial-up or high-speed connection; in some cases, you may be able to connect your wireless phone to your PC to access the Internet, but you are likely to need additional hardware and/or software to enable your wireless phone to communicate with your PC.
- You will be unable to reach someone at your home who does not have their cell phone on or with them.
- You will have to keep your wireless phone charged at all times; in the event of a power outage, and your phone is not charged or the battery wears down, you will have to wait until power is restored before you can charge your phone.
- Typically, a phone number can only be assigned to a single wireless phone. With a traditional wireline phone, you can have several phones (or extensions) in your house that connect to the same number.
- If your home is in an area that does not enjoy clear wireless reception, your calls might be patchy, unclear, or have a tendency to drop. Be aware of your surroundings and the type of reception you get at home with your wireless phone, as this is the service quality you’ll have for all your calls.
For the best of both worlds, keep your DTC wireline phone service and add DTC Wireless to meet your wireless needs. Ask about DTC Rewards that provide discounts when you use DTC and DTC Wireless qualified services.
Both the SLC and FUSC fees collected from customers go to federal administrative agencies created by the FCC to oversee and manage the funds. The federal SLC fees are re-distributed to local telephone companies based on their specific costs. These funds enable community based telecom providers serving isolated, high-cost rural areas to recover some of the costs of the facilities used to connect your home or business. The FUSC fees allow local companies and cooperatives to recover our assessments for the federal universal service programs. A portion of the funds collected from the Federal Universal Service Charge is distributed to keep rates in high-cost rural areas at or near the national average.