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Phone Companies Bill Public for Nonexistent Equipment

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the funny-money dept.

The Almighty Buck 612

Srinivasan Ramakrishnan writes "Forbes has an eye-opening article on the scam that lets the Bells scoop $5 billion every year from the consumer with the sanction of the FCC. The FCC Line charge that appears on every phone bill is a vestige of a deal that was struck by the FCC with the Bells. The deal was touted by the FCC as a historic win that saved $3.2 Billion a year for the consumer - Forbes takes a closer look at the deal."

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funny math, not funny money (-1, Funny)

jaxdahl (227487) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807663)

$5 billion every year from the consumer So ah.. Bell takes $5 billion a year from this guy? Gotta be Bill Gates for them to be able to get that kind of money from one guy.

Re:funny math, not funny money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807702)

That really wasn't all that funny, just pedantic. If you have something insightful to say, you might want to try again. Using the phrase "the consumer" in this context is common and is considered proper English.

hmmm (-1, Flamebait)

boogy nightmare (207669) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807664)



hello, can i talk to either mr or mrs sucker

thank you for your time

Sad aint it

FP! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807667)

FP!

FIRST POST???? (-1, Flamebait)

p.rican (643452) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807668)

YAY!

Complete Bullshit! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807669)

'nuff said.

Re:Complete Bullshit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807830)

>'nuff said.
Could you say a little more please....

Quick question....do you know how your "universal service charge" money is being spent? It's a required "tax" that was started to "keep phone service affordable for everyone"
see here [fcc.gov]
But do you REALLY know where it goes?

I blame it on the log cabins (5, Funny)

wiggys (621350) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807670)

If a non-existant phone rings when you're in the woods do you get billed for it?

Re:I blame it on the log cabins (1)

SunPin (596554) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807810)

No because the schizophrenia is limited to you. :)

The Bear (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807863)

Yes you get billed for it.

Actualy a bear picks up the phone and answers the calls, watches the TV, and reads/posts to slashdot.

Who did you think Timothy was?

You say its not true, but if you asked the Bells then they would show you the Disney channell and point out The Bear in the Big Blue house program as evidence this realy takes place.

The only thing you do not get from this scenario is charged for water/sewage. And not it is not because Bears do not know how to use the toilet, or water, but rather the issue of justifying how the City got the water/sewage lines up on that big rocky mountain.

fp... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807672)

...fucktards

FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807674)

FP by the AC!!

darn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807677)

So you're telling me I still CAN blue box?

moron Godless softwar gangsters billing everybody (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807679)

for non-functional 'services'.

this is what you want US to look like to the rest of the wwworld? yuk.

you must mean fictional ?services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807694)

yeah, that's right. hangin's probably way too good for those thIEving liars.

Dallas (2, Interesting)

mirko (198274) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807881)

When I was younger, J.R. Ewing was supposed to be the typical example of "evil capitalist".
Now, he indeed seems to have been obsoleted.
But don't take it wrong : in Europe, we had loads of similar examples : Paris'Mayor's wife who got 10000's of dollars for a few dozen pages bugous report, France former Prime Minister, Edith Cresson, who was proven guilty of sharing European money with her dentist, etc.
So, well, it is not typically American, this is just typically global.

Nationalize local phone access! (5, Insightful)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807691)

Or, something. I mean seriously, when was the last time you heard about one of these companies actually offering anything beneficial to anyone? They seem to only exist as local monopolies and to rip off the consumer and limit choice every time they get.

If you ask me, any kind of 'infrastructure' system should be run by the government, like the highway system, and companies should only be allowed access to things they can't have exclusive control over.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807738)

Umm. They tried that. The whole "not allowed to own your phone" period in our great telecom history.

The only thing worse than private ownership is public ownership.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807743)

Well now you've done it. By stating your Socialist ideals you'll have every Libertarian, Republican, Democrate and Idiot crawling out of the woodwork to call you a pinko commie, and this entire article is going to collapse into a flamewar about religion, politics and the War in Iraq. Just like every other article this past six months, come to think of it.

While I may be inclined to agree with you to a certain extent, if you want to see the effects of having everything nationalised then take a look at the U.K in the 70's. We're still dealing with the effects from a lot of Labour policies in the 60's and 70's. It isn't always a good idea.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807760)

As a proud representative of the Idiot party, I've come out of the woodwork to say:

"Fuck you, pinko commie."

Okay. Carry on.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (2, Insightful)

djward (251728) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807759)

Yeah. So when was the last time the government did anything efficiently or cost-effectively?

Regulated industry is the way to go, but the problem is, the FCC won't regulate. Probably because the industry has its nose (and wallet) so far up the rear of a bunch of senators it's hard to legislate against.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (5, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807814)

"Yeah. So when was the last time the government did anything efficiently or cost-effectively?"

This moring I sent a letter to the middle of nowhere over 1000 miles away for under 40 cents.

Does that count?

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (5, Funny)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807845)

Even though I agree with your sentiment, using the post office as a model of efficiency just may get you into trouble someday...

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807861)

In the Uk the government is bringing in the Post office is being part privatized.

The resulst Increasing costs and declining service.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807860)

Yeah. So when was the last time the government did anything efficiently or cost-effectively?

Halfway around the world, just a few weeks ago.

By any count, it's a "cheap" invasion of a hostile regime a world away from our shores.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807784)

Yeah! Government regulation and government-created artifical monopolies cause the problem... so the answer is MORE government, not.

Have you ever looked at Europe where GSM network prices dropped with 100s of percents when THE GOVERNMENT GOT MOSTLY OUT and let the free market do its work? In Holland alone (16 million people) exist FIVE competing mobile telcos. Prices keep going down.

These monopolies exist only because someone is preventing the competition from entering the market. (Yes, that is your friendly government.) Why would anyone need a license to sell phone service in the first place?

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (5, Interesting)

YetAnotherAnonymousC (594097) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807791)

Well, I consider myself a libertarian, and I agree with you nonetheless.

The fact of the matter is that local phone service is so heavily regulated, subsidized by business service, etc. that there would be *less* overhead if governments provided the service. That doesn't mean private companies couldn't offer service for fancy technologies that are outside the purview of basic service (think private roads and turnpikes).

I don't think this is inconsistent with the Constitution. Back then, roads and canals fell under the infrastructure sphere. Now, I think basic phone service does. I don't believe that government service would prevent private companies from offering new technologies and services, such as bundling a bunch of services together via fiber to a house. But for those that just have a copper wire to their house and want to call someone in town... there should be a public option.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (3, Informative)

chickens (626775) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807798)

That sounds like pretty much the opposite of what's recently happened in the U.K. with the unbundling of the local loop. This measure was designed to allow smaller companies to compete with British Telecom more directly, giving them the opportunity to place their own equipment in BT's local exchanges.

Not entirely sure how successful it's been though...

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807836)

Fucktard, the govt's FCC line fee, and usage tax, etc. ARE the problem.


If MCI plays accountign tricks, they go bankrupt. Meanwhile, the federal gov't can't balance the budget per GAAP.


If you like gov't that much, there are some nice communist countries you can move to... Cuba, or China, or North Korea. You'll probably realize there's a reason their standard of living is so much lower.

Re:Nationalize local phone access! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807855)

Yeah! I don't agree with you, so you should move!

Fuckwit.

cut the line! (5, Interesting)

martone66 (643104) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807703)

It's times like this that I'm glad I don't pay the local phone monopoly ~$40/month for the "priviledge" of having a landline.

Ever since I've used my cellphone as my main phone, my phone bill stays consistent month to month, I don't pay extra for long distance (or get screwed in intra-state charges), I get no telemarketing calls, and I have one number where I can be reached.

Cut your landline if you can!

Re:cut the line! (1)

Tenchi-kun (559120) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807731)

I agree totally to this idea. My wife and I were having a hard time justifying having our 2 cellphones, then having our landline phone on top of that. Especially when the total cost for our plans on our cellphones were less than what we were being charged for our landline phone alone. It's nice being able to be pretty much anywhere in the country, yet having one phone number where someone can always get in touch with me. And it's so much easier to screen calls on my cellphone.

Re:cut the line! (1)

mlknowle (175506) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807773)

I agree- but for one thing: I get telemarketing calls on my cell phone too! I know it's illegal, but what can I do about it? Not to mention that many times I get calls from friends in the dorm, where caller ID won't work, so I can't screen calls that way

Re:cut the line! (2, Insightful)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807775)

You know, you're still paying for the use of the infrastructure if you have a cellphone. The Baby Bells are still getting your money. You are paying the phone monopoly.

Amen to that (4, Interesting)

No Such Agency (136681) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807789)

Having a land line is a grotesque and arrogantly undisguised rip-off. If it wasn't for my modem I'd lose it and get a cell. I mean, I still get billed an itemized $5/month for "touch-tone service". The phone company must have recouped the cost of converting to touch-tone many years ago. Almost nobody uses an old-fashioned pulse dial phone anymore.

And yet.

Re:Amen to that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807821)

I still have two dial phones in my home. One is 1937 vintage and the other is a "space saver" phone from the 50's. The rest of my phones are touch tone. If I did not like antique phones I might drop the land line.

MojoRising

Re:Amen to that (5, Interesting)

ryanvm (247662) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807868)

Have you ever tried dropping the touch-tone service? Your modem can dial pulse and most phones can too. You'd still be able to use touch-tones on phone menus. The touch-tone service only refers to initiating the call.

Of course they'll probably tell you that it's not an option. Still, it's worth a shot.

What do you use? (3, Interesting)

The Tyro (247333) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807828)

My wife and myself both have cell phones, and a land line. I contemplated exactly what you're suggesting, but I need my land line for my DSL. Cell reception is also spotty out where I live; my cell calls from my home often get dropped. they get me coming and going.

It's a scam, but they've got me... no other broadband available in my area. Of course, even if cable was available, they STILL force you to get a basic cable package before you can get cable broadband. I'm not a TV watcher, so that's money down a rathole.

What company do you use? Nationwide long distance or anything? I'm curious how you're making this work.

Re:cut the line! (0)

Trebonius (29177) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807834)

I had a cell phone for a while. It slowly sucked away at my sanity until I was faced with a choice between getting rid of the cellphone and going on a coast-to-coast Wal-Mart bombing spree.

In my state, it wasn't particularly clear which choice was the best one. Next time, I hope I'll make the better decision.

Re:cut the line! (5, Funny)

Neck_of_the_Woods (305788) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807842)


BUT, if I cut my land line, how would I get in and out of the Matrix!

Re:cut the line! (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807898)

Thats the same reason I am using those oldschool rotary phones with pulse dialing!

I do, however, have one of those elite mechanical autodialers for it.

Another reason to cancel landlines (3, Informative)

BrK (39585) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807706)

Just this morning the wife and I were talking about canceling our VZ land-line (we both have VZW phones and a cable modem).

This is just another reinforcing reason to do so. The only calls we really get on the land-line are telemarketers anyway, yet a basic line with callerid and a minimal LD plan is $38.00/month.

The consumer/end-user in this country is really getting screwed by the government and various utility oligopolies.

Re:Another reason to cancel landlines (2, Interesting)

hafree (307412) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807899)

I did this 3 years ago and I couldn't be happier. 7 addresses and 2 states later, I still have the exact same number, no long distance charges ever, and although I'm probably paying too much I know exactly what I'm going to be billed every month. With my Verizon landline, I had message rate service for $11/month, yet my phone bill was regularly $30+ including the long distance carrier before I made a single call.

I'd just like to add that I have AT&T for my wireless service and they suck. I routinely get bills that say "due upon receipt", but are overdue by the time I get them, somehow all my bills from them always show up with no postmark, and I've had my service disconnected several times for failure to pay a bill that wasn't due yet because of "glitches" in their system. You really can't win, but it's less complicated than the hassles of a landline.

Tone dial (4, Interesting)

Quill_28 (553921) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807707)

I know in Tennessee, there was/is a 1 or 2 dollar charge per month for having a touch tone instead of a rotary tone.
My father-in-law resisted for years but finally gave in.

Re:Tone dial (1)

dieMSdie (24109) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807736)

That charge still exists (at least in my area), though it does not get itemized on the phone bill.

My father's bill was $2.00 less than mine, but he finally gave in when his ISP stopped accepting rotary calls after an equipment upgrade.

You're forgetting about something... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807739)

Nobody gives a flying fuck about some backwater hick state full of losers and kooks like your father. So please, shut the fuck up and spare us stories about Tennessee... I think if everyone else here had our way, it'd have been nuked a long time ago.

Re:You're forgetting about something... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807751)

your an asshole dude

Re:You're forgetting about something... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807767)

your an asshole dude

It's "you're" which is contracted "you are", not "your" which is posessive. Jesus Christ you dumb fuck! I may be an asshole, but at least I have some fucking grammar skills beyond that of a 2nd grader. Are you from Tennessee by chance?

Re:You're forgetting about something... (-1, Offtopic)

Jerk City Troll (661616) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807833)

Nobody gives a flying fuck about some backwater hick state full of losers and kooks like your father. So please, shut the fuck up and spare us stories about Tennessee... I think if everyone else here had our way, it'd have been nuked a long time ago. ...

your an asshole dude ...

It's "you're" which is contracted "you are", not "your" which is posessive. Jesus Christ you dumb fuck! I may be an asshole, but at least I have some fucking grammar skills beyond that of a 2nd grader. Are you from Tennessee by chance?


There is something truly artistic about this thread. I admire the poster's talent and multiple personality disorder. It seems to me that trolling is indeed an art. To capture the attention of the moderators requires you to be more than just annoying... it requires a certain kind of cleverness. Most stupid people generally do not aquire such attention.

To the moderators that wasted points moderating this down, you are the fool(s) with egg on your face(s). Those points could have gone to positive conversation. Instead, your were mindlessly suckered into wasting your valuable points on some trolls. Morons. I blame the moderators for the unbalanced signal:noise ratio on Slashdot.

Re:You're forgetting about something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807841)

You don't have intelligence beyond that of a second grader, though. Considering you're probably some fifteen-year-old little fuck living in suburban Iowa with your parents, though, you'll have plenty of time and resources to play catch-up. Unless, of course, you ever wander outside of your sheltered little three-story home and actually say things like this to others. In which case we'll make sure to have a nice "down-home" Tennessee funeral for you at an inner-city baptist church.

By the way, it's spelled "possessive", asscaptain.

Re:Tone dial (4, Interesting)

jdreed1024 (443938) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807882)

I know in Tennessee, there was/is a 1 or 2 dollar charge per month for having a touch tone instead of a rotary tone.

Here in the Boston area, I get charged $0.44 per month for TouchTone service. Which is ridiculous, since with today's digital equipment, it probably takes more effort to understand pulse signals than DTMF tones. A couple of folks I know have sucessfully gotten that canceled on the grounds that they don't use TouchTone. I've been fighting with Verizon for a few months now (I have 2 phones in my apartment - one is rotary, and another is electronic pulse only), but I've had no such luck.

Ugh... (-1, Flamebait)

xtermz (234073) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807711)

...though made in 2000, I'm just waiting for people to start blaming this on the Bush administration.....

Re:Ugh... (-1)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807806)

Every day the Bush administration doesn't proactively do something, they are responsible.

I wouldn't think any different if some crappy Democrat was in office, either.

So there you go, your wait is over.

Re:Ugh... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807847)

Oh fucking wah. If Bush and his crew weren't such incompetent fascists then you wouldn't have anything to cry about now would you?

Re:Ugh... (0, Flamebait)

bogie (31020) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807872)

No he's doing plenty to screw us over already. No need to blame him for this particular problem. In fact I wish the worse thing he did was add some extra fees to our phone bill.

Instead he's squandered all the good international faith from 7/11, made the rest of the world hate us even more by acting like cowboy, wants to give the rich a 700 billion tax cut, and will be responsible for the most pervasive destruction of civil liberties since Stalin.

No I think we have plenty to blame him for now thanks.

Damn Capitalists (0, Funny)

yE oLdE pHaRt (609262) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807714)

Stupid capitalists, this is why communism it the way to go.

They're not the only ones (2, Informative)

JjCale (555759) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807717)

In Australia, Telstra has been hiking their line rentals [news.com.au] for the last three years. (although apparently the overall call costs are gong down).

Is anyone *actually* surprised by this? (4, Insightful)

Networkink*Man (468175) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807718)

Step 1) Get a cell - cut your line altogether.
Step 2) Get Cable or Satelite Internet - Better mediums altogether IMO
Step 3) Rejoice that the "Bells" are screwing you any more. I've been w/o a phone line for 1 year plus now ( I'm sure others have been longer), and I couldn't be happier w/ the arrangement.
Step 4) Profit! (Or, actually the Bells stop profitting).

Re:Is anyone *actually* surprised by this? (2, Informative)

Nick of NSTime (597712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807758)

I can't cut my landline for these reasons:

  1. I have digital satellite, which requires a telephone line
  2. My cell service (T-Mobile) is not reliable enough; what if I need to call 911?
  3. I have an alarm system that uses the phone line

Those are just a few reasons why I can't cut my land line. I'm sure there are others in the same situation.

Re:Is anyone *actually* surprised by this? (2, Interesting)

murgee (615127) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807853)

If you're not using the satellite connection (or using DSL - then it's a bit pointless) for Internet access, you might want to look into one of the Internet telephony companies out there.. Vonage [vonage.com] looked pretty good, as long as you can get a number in your area code. You get a neat little box that works with standard phone equipment. I don't think that solves the 911 problem, though.

Re:Is anyone *actually* surprised by this? (1)

murgee (615127) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807867)

I'm dumb, they do 911 service too. [vonage.com]

Re:Is anyone *actually* surprised by this? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807804)

As much as your post wants to make a point, there's one thing you really have to keep in mind...

Whenever you've had to report a power or cable or some other sort of outage, was your phone out?

I was one of the early adopters of RoadRunner back in 96, and had cable since up through the end of last year. Verizon offered a deal on DSL, and I bit. Since then I haven't worried a minute about 'net outages of any kind. I almost forget what it was like to have to call Time Warner and report yet another problem with their name servers being down or cable being out.

Re:Is anyone *actually* surprised by this? (1)

Shalome (566988) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807865)

Yes, that's the ideal solution... assuming everyone lives in a wired area. I live in a major metro area and we *still* can't get cable internet where we are. We had to get a landline and DSL when we moved here after a year of just having a cellphone, raising our monthly bills by a good $40 JUST to have a no-frills, no long distance landline for the DSL... And Satellite internet SUCKS for online gaming purposes. The packet loss is astounding.

Re:Is anyone *actually* surprised by this? (1)

buzzsport (558426) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807895)

"Step 2) Get Cable or Satelite Internet - Better mediums altogether IMO"

Biggest problem is w/ Satellite Receivers and/or Digital Cable (usually bundled or ordered with cable modems and/or sat. internet) you need a dial-up line in order to get pay-per-view to work.

I know where it is! (2, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807724)

It's in the most obvious place, of course --

Kevin Mitnick's Secret Warehouse!

I pay $20 a month (3, Informative)

j1mmy (43634) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807729)

for a land line with no features (really just a dial tone), just so I can have DSL. It's a complete ripoff.

Re:I pay $20 a month (1)

mcgroarty (633843) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807788)

Ditto here. I regularly have 28-31 brief calls a month on my phone, specifically for my TiVo, which I'd just hook up to the net if I could drop the land line and keep the DSL.

Most folks I know use cell phones more than land lines now. If I didn't have to keep both lines, the cell is cheaper than the land line for my use.

Re:I pay $20 a month (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807854)

for a land line with no features (really just a dial tone), just so I can have DSL. It's a complete ripoff

This is the primary reason I haven't dropped my land line for a cell phone. I love my DSL line. I don't want cable.

Let's not forget andout FCC LD taxes (4, Interesting)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807735)

I got rid of my long distance carrier completey and saved all those FCC imposed taxes on my phone connection. I usually just email anyone who lives outside of my local calling area. If I ever do need to make a LD call, I just use my cell phone or a cheap calling card.

Re:Let's not forget andout FCC LD taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807892)

"Need to make a long distance call? Just dial 1010220 then 1 then the area code and number of the person you're trying to call.
The first minute is a ripoff at a dollar, but the next 19 minutes are free, and after that the rates are competitive with regular carriers. It's a great deal for me, since the only people I call outside NoVA are family and we talk more than 20 minutes.

$458 dollar gloves (4, Funny)

pr0ntab (632466) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807740)

0 line printers - $25,000
1 phone switch - $133,000
The same phone switch on newegg - $4

Succeeding to sweep a damning audit of your shady accounting under the rug: Priceless

There are some things money can't buy. You use back-office deals with the FCC for that.

A tired industry (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807742)

Any time there is nickel-and-diming in an enterprise, you know that industry is past its peak. For example, the telephone and airlines industries.

This is nothing new... (5, Interesting)

Ratphace (667701) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807744)


...to the consumer. The Bell system for all its splendor has been sticking it to us for YEARS. I mean, take touch tone service. For years they charged an additional 'fee' for this service, when in all actuality it was cheaper for them to implement and maintain.

Also, the Bell system invented DSL back in the last 70's but didn't pursue it because of their own short-sightedness. Then it comes to pass that when the Internet boom took off and the Bell companies were left out in the cold, suddenly they wanted to 'charge' fees each time someone dialed-up an ISP phone number. Luckily the count system told the Bells to suck it. The Bell system claimed it was putting more burden on their system, which might very well be the case, however, they also stuck it to the consumer for YEARS with this 'unlimited local calls' for one rate when they had done studies way back in the day to determine that the average customer makes/receives 6 calls a day with the average call being 4.2 minutes. Now that customers are using MORE of their unlimited service the phone company is crying the blues...

Let them reap what they've sewn all these years :)

Profit! (3, Funny)

SnowDog_2112 (23900) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807748)

(Is this joke dead yet?)

1: Monopoly broken up by government.
2: Local companies and national carriers hold secret meetings with government regulators, decide how to screw customer over.
3: ???
4: Profit!!

Re:Profit! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807801)

Well, I don't think this really needs the third step...

Re:Profit! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807883)

Yes, it's dead.

another good example... (3, Insightful)

AbdullahHaydar (147260) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807756)

...is that the wireless companies have been fighting number portability for years (it's still not required: after being passed into law 1996, the FCC has postponed implementation every year) and yet they claim them as part of their fees: Nextel [nextel.com] , AT&T [attws.com] , etc

Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807766)

Sounds vaguely like what I suspect will happen here in Minnesota with other stuff. Right now, we have a pretty large ($4 billion) deficit, and a lot of programs are getting cut. Roads are a problem here because of the huge amounts of population growth we've had in the last 20 years... Right now, our state legislature is talking about allowing private companies to add additional lanes to existing roads and then charge money to use those lanes so that they can recoup the cost of building them, plus make a "reasonable profit", after which time, the cost of using those lanes would be reduced. I heard about this on the news last night, and the first thing I thought of was the telecomms and all the extra bullshit they tack onto our bills.

You and I both know that the cost of using those lanes would NEVER go down. They'll always find a way to charge more for what they've built, simply because people become so adjusted to things (like telephones) that they become a "necessity" instead of a "luxury" and people pay them blindly for the service. Look at cable TV -- how many of the channels you get in your huge bundle do you actually watch?

Minnesota Roads (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807822)

I, too, hail from Minnesota, and it sounds like a good idea. I could still drive in the old lanes free and I wouldn't be forced to pay for the new ones. If I thought the price was right I'd pay. If not, I would still have the basic service, just not as fast. Plus, soon I'll have a permit to pack heat and I'll be all set!

Arthur

Monopoly (5, Insightful)

whig (6869) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807771)

The problem, fundamentally, is the local loop monopoly.

I'm no advocate of government regulation, but in economic terms, there is only one workable solution to prevent this sort of abuse. If the FCC and state regulators would get out of the way and let communities implement this, the cost and quality of phone service would improve to accurately reflect a competitive market value.

1. The community should purchase the network: all the last mile copper and rights of way should be owned by the commons and not monopolized by any private entity.

2. Any company (including the Baby Bells) can bid to rent the use of the network for the provision of any service (dialtone, DSL, etc.) to any customer. These rents should be for a term that allows for regular adjustment as the market changes.

With this approach, the Baby Bells would be in a good position to maintain a dominant market position in the near term, but not a monopoly which they can abuse. And if other firms can enter the market and do a better job of providing value to consumers and businesses, they will take market share away from the Bells.

Already charging for non existent service & ot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807772)

Phone companies are already charging for non existing service ... it's not surprising they are charging for non existent equipment too.

The real scam, with the phone company I discovered was phone leasing. Not until last year did we find out that my Uncle WAS STILL leasing his telephone (a pulse dialing rotary) for $17.95 a month. We had been under the impression that the "phone lease" was ended with a breakup. He has paid OVER $1000 for this phone. Although we think it may be collectible ... the phone company graciously let us keep it! Unbelievable!

I assume voice over IP and different types of broadband and WiFi will eventually cure the service/billing issues. Phone companies will have to be "upfront" with charges in order to be competitive

I need my hard line to... (2, Funny)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807776)

Get out of the Matrix.

An enigma... (3, Insightful)

bluprint (557000) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807786)

The government essentially established regulations for phone companies to use in determining thier prices. Phone companies abuse the system (to get more money), and people scream about how evil the phone companies are.

The government establishes regulations on how much money welfare recipients should get. The recipients abuse the system (we've all seen stories about this at some point, somewhere)....and people scream about "the system".

Way to go, FCC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807787)

When your audit showed the telcos were not obeying federal regulations, instead of taking actual punitive action you stopped the audit when they telcos cut a deal that they told you would benefit the consumers.

Now, that's just great. That's like the police agreeing not to arrest a rapist, when he offers to pull out of the girl he's raping as the cops are talking to him, and let her go.

The more I read about their stupid, corporation-friendly decisions, the more I think "FCC" stands for "Fucking [our] Constituent Consumers"

xtermz's Latest 24 of 214 Comments (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807796)

Regardless of how many times you post "Another homophobic moron. Can't we get rid of these clowns?" being gay will still be wrong. Your alternative lifestyle is a disgrace. I am currently proposing legislation in Congress that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison. You, being a misguided ass-goblin, will soon be sent to a federal pen. where you can receive all the ass-poundings you desire. You see, I have all the answers. The fags get to continue being fags, just in prison. And all the decent citizens of this country are freed of the burden of having gay people out amongst us. Fuck you and your faggotry. You are a pox on this country. (You see how I actually put some thought and some effort into both of my replies to your "clown comment"? That is what you should be doing. Don't toss off cheap posts with no substance to champion your queer cause. No one will take you seriously. Clearly, from your post people will think you a casual observer who isn't willing to fight for faggot rights. On the other hand, a reply such as the ones that I craft will garnish respect for my commitment to ideals. Take that faggot.)

Dump you ILEC (1)

h0d (540354) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807800)

Dump Verizon or SBC and go with a CLEC like Cox or Cavalier or... More features and a better price. Choose more than one service and the price gets even better.

This... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807809)

...article harms good american money. Terrorism might be involved.

UK line charges (4, Informative)

Radian (172121) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807820)

In the UK we get charged for line rental (approx £10/month), and we pay for all calls - including local calls. It is my understanding that in the US local calls are free, so you are getting something for the rental charge.

"Grandpa" Al Lewis... (1, Funny)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807823)

...said it best. [liglobal.com]

~Philly

Phone company billing just sucks, period (5, Informative)

swb (14022) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807826)

Phone company billing is just awful no matter how you slice it. I manage the phone system here, and unless you're an (ex-) Qwest employee there's no way you can understand the detailed billing associated with your phone service. The actual monthly phone bill I get from Qwest (or bills, some things they insist on billing seperately -- a RAS PRI has its primary trunk number billed on a seperate bill) looks like my home phone bill, with two extra digits. No service detail, nothing.

When I took over the phone guy's responsibility when he quit, I asked the telco for a detailed customer record, and I got ~175 page report that detailed our services in a totally unintelligible report. Each DS0 from our four D1s took up about a page on the report, detailing every 10 cent tarrif that made up the price of each DS0, along with the other tarrifs associated with the DS1 itself. After looking at it I pretty much gave up and handed it over to our phone maintenance vendor who audited for me -- they employee two ex Qwest employees specifically for this purpose, since the codings and info aren't explained anywhere but in some Qwest internal documents.

We ended up dropping a bunch of 1FB (telco slang for analog copper) circuits, CENTREX circuits and other stuff we weren't using. They were live on our demarc block, but not punched to anything.

This isn't unusual, either -- the vague monthly invoicing and byzantine customer records lead to so many overbilled or unused service that there's an entire industry that does nothing but audit phone bills in exchange for a percentage of the savings.

My experience with telcos leads me to believe that half of this is a monopolistic lack of desire for reform, government bureaucracy and overregulation, and excessive merger activity that's left them with dozens of computer systems that don't communicate without human intervention. I've been told by both Sprint and Qwest that they have systems so complex that there are few people there who can even *use* both of them, but data is required to be pulled/entered from both of them to get anything done.

Unfortunately I don't see any hope for reform. You pretty much have to do business with them, and when business is good they give you what they want and waste the money on mergers and exec perks (Nacchio sucks!), and when business is bad (like now), they plead poverty and can't afford to fix this.

I guess the only hope is that some of the CLECs can do better without becoming just like the ILECs, although I'd imagine the temptation is to become the ILECs, not improve on them.

True Story... (4, Interesting)

MoeMoe (659154) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807827)

I moved 6 months ago from one house to another and informed Verizon to change my number and consequently terminate my old number, since then my old number has a bill being sent to my new house that keeps adding on and is now up to $350. I called Verizon about it and told them there is no line for that number anymore and never existed in my new residence in the first place, the nasty jerk on the other side said that maybe I requested a second line to add on and if what I was saying is true then there couldnt be a bill because in order to get a bill you have to be using your line (total BS by the way), I told this guy to check when the last time I made a call on that number was, sure enough he told me it was 6 months ago and the last call was to Verizon TS, I asked if there were any notices filed for termination on the date of that call.... About 5 minutes of pause later he told me a supervisor would be in contact shortly.... that was 3 days ago!

Really ticks me off (1)

Epistax (544591) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807831)

Looking at a phone bill, you are charged for several things that are obviously complete lies--No respresentative at any of the companies is able to break it apart.
Now granted they probably really do need this money, or else they wouldn't make any profit, but why can't they tell the truth about where the money goes? By refusing to say, they're just making themselves look corrupt.

Phone lines... (4, Interesting)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807838)

Four years back, I purchased my home. Location mattered, since I wanted DSL and a static IP address.... (all the normal stuff - school system, neighborhoods, etc - were covered too) Called the phone company, was half the maximum distance from the CO, and had the go install DSL after we finished closing. A couple weeks went by and nothing. Finally, I called to find out when they were going to show up and they tell me the lines in our area were multiplexed (?) and would not support DSL. They don't work better than 4kb/s with a POTs connection either, compared to the 48-50kb/s I was getting in my apartment dial up.

Road Runner moved in a year later and gave me a glorious broadband connection at home, and my servers are at a local ISP. The day my Hughes DirectTV DVR pulls info over my network rather than POTs, is the day I cancel my land line and run all calls through our mobiles. I suspect it is game over for both the cable and telcos once the wireless broadband hits it strides.

Every time the phone company would call me during supper trying to sell me the latest service, I would ask them for one thing. Can you give me a DSL connection? I'll be damned, but that just horked up the call center script badly. (grin)

Is cellular service really any better? (1)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807843)

Quite a few people are chanting the "cut your landline" mantra. My question is, since the FCC also regulates the cell companies, are they (cellular carriers) really any better about not screwing everyone? Somehow I doubt it. Many of these cellular guys are the ones screwing you over on the landline side. Anyone have a cell phone bill handy to see what mysterious "FCC charges" might also be on there?

Just heard on NPR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807859)

Luther Vandross who had a massive stroke a few days ago has just passed away.

I know what with all the jokes on slashdot this news may be a bit too serious but he was, after all, truely an American Icon. Really.

May his soul rest in peace.

Who do you think owns your wireless service? (4, Interesting)

bahamat (187909) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807877)

Everyone here seems to be talking on the same general thread "cancel your land line to screw the bells".

Who exactly do you think you're hurting?
Verizon = Northwest Bell
SBC = Southwest Bell
Cingular = PacBell (owned by SBC, see above)

Who's left?
AT&T? They started this fiasco.
WorldCom? Better known as MCI, now bankrupt
Sprint? NexTel?

Nobody's going to get screwed by you cancelling yoru land line. You're still paying the same people for your cell phone. Do you think their accounting practices will suddenly become honest just because you're now using wireless?

"There's too much rat hair in McDonald's food, so I'll just have their fries".

Think people! Think!

New Yorkers Get Hit With.. (1)

vudufixit (581911) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807884)

An MTA surcharge -Mass Transit Authority. What the bloody hell does telecommunications have to do with mass transit? I work in the suburbs - why do I have to subsidizie the MTA, and through a phone levy, no less!

Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5807885)

The local monopoly bills you for a number of things that either don't exist, or are free to them (i.e. provided by the class 5 switches they already have). Amongst them are: caller ID, call waiting and call forwarding. Subscribing to these services has been known to add $20/month to your bill, but are basic services provided by a switch they already own. They do not cost a single cent more to use. Unbelievably, if you ever had an ISDN line, they charged you for all of those things, even though THE SYSTEM WOULDN'T WORK if they were not already provided.

The only way to crush this monopoly is for 802.11 mesh networks to somehow become a reality. Don't look to the government for help, they're useless.

Hold on a sec (3, Interesting)

n-baxley (103975) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807888)

$5 billion every year from the consumer

Now lets gets some of the facts straight. What they found was 5 billion in equipment that the bells had on their books but couldn't be found. They aren't getting away with that whole amount each year. I'm outraged by the whole bells situation too, but let's read the article. Especially one as informative as this one. I know, this is /. what am I thinking.

reminds me of some of the... (1)

kiwi-matgar (627781) | more than 11 years ago | (#5807890)

shonky legal accounting gimicks. One that is quite popular and legal is the re-valuation of assets then claim that the difference between the current and previous years value as income and thus pushes up the profit artificially even though no physical money exists.

As for the structure of the lines companies, IMHO, the US should nationalise the whole network and have a uniformed cost of access to the network to ensure that the lines companies cannot favour one company over another.
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