|long distance phone Terms
When choosing a long-distance carrier, it's important to cut through the confusion and get to the heart of the deal you're considering. Many less reputable long-distance providers are wary of their customers understanding all the long distance phone terms, and are hesitant to explain to you exactly what it is you're paying for. This is just one of the ways they keep you in the dark so they can overcharge you later. To cut them off at the pass, we've included a detailed glossary of "must-know" terms used in the long-distance industry so you can make the right decision, the first time around.
- 800-Number Monthly Fees
Some consumers want to be able to provide friends, family, or business contacts with the added convenience of being able to reach them without being charged for long-distance services. But there might be a catch if you're looking to get an 800 number. Some long-distance providers will charge you a fixed fee called an 800-number monthly fee for you to have a toll-free personal number.
- 800 Number Rates
If you choose to have an 800 number, you may be charged for the calls to that number. This 800-number rate is often a flat fee rather than the per-minute rate the caller would normally pay.
- Access Charges
Access charges can apply to both long-distance calling cards or your regular long-distance service. These fees are charged by local carriers to their customers for using the local network to place and receive long-distance calls. These charges may be made to both your long-distance carrier as well as to you, the consumer. The charge to the consumer is called subscriber line charge, or SLC, and is a flat monthly charge. For additional information, take a look at PICC below.
- Billing Address
This term refers to the address where you receive your bill.
- Billing Increments
Long-distance carriers usually charge in billing increments, or will round up the time you spend on a call. For example, if your carrier charges in one-minute increments, a 45-second call would be rounded up to the nearest minute, and would be charged the same as a 60-second call. If you are charged in six-second increments instead, then that same 45-second call would be rounded up to just 48-seconds.
This is one of the hottest technologies in the phone carrier industry today. Broadband allows your signal to be broadcast to the receiver of your call digitally, and permits you to receive audio, video, data, and interactive services from the same carrier, all in one package. These packages are known as high-speed digital integrated delivery systems, and are extremely popular now, as many consumers purchase cable, high-speed Internet access, and phone service, all in one package.
This is a marketing term which refers to combining all related telecommunications services into a joint bill, which usually comes out to less than the total of the combined bills together. For example, it would be cheaper for a consumer to purchase high-speed Internet access, cable, and long-distance service from a single provider instead of purchasing all services separately.
- Calling Card Rate
This terms refers to the per-minute charge of any long-distance calls made via a calling card linked to your account. The fees for using such a calling card are usually much higher than your normal long-distance rate.
Beware of anyone practicing cramming. This is an illegal activity practiced by some long-distance carriers, who will bill you for additional services that you never requested. If you have long-distance service, always check your statement - if you find you have been crammed, contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) immediately! Also see slamming.
Because it is more expensive to provide certain services in some areas than it is in others, many long-distance carriers vary their charges for the same services in different areas.
- Directory Assistance Service
This service occasionally comes with an attached fee that might be charged to your account on a per-use basis. It allows you to contact an operator with access to a database of directories and listings. So, if you're on the road and find that you are unable to locate a phone number or address, your local Directory Assistance Service can help you.
- Enhanced Service
Services like voicemail and call-waiting are considered enhance services. Most of the time, you will be charged extra for requesting these services; however, they are occasionally offered, free of charge, by a long-distance carrier seeking to expand their consumer base by offering incentives.
- Facilities-Based Carrier
Many of the larger telephone companies install, own, and use their own networks of cables or fiber-optics instead of leasing from another carrier. Keep in mind, though, that just because a company owns and uses its own network, this does not always equal a better deal. Some resellers actually provide a better deal because, as smaller companies, they may need your business much more than a telephone mega-corporation.
- FCC - Federal Communications Commission
This government agency is the main regulator for long-distance telephone carriers.
- Fiber-Optic Cables
These fibers, often used in telephone technology, are literally made of glass. Composed of many thin and extra-clear glass fibers, they transmit digital data in pulses of light, which makes their signals much faster than an analog signal. After all, the signal travels at the speed of light! Also, because they run at a higher frequency than an analog signal, you can use both an analog and fiber-optic signal at the same time, making data transfer much faster. These cables are essential for the telecommunications industry today.
- Inter-LATA Rates
The term LATA is an acronym for Local Access Transport Area. A LATA is a geographic region in which long distance phone calls are sent and received. Many states may have more than one LATA. Rates for calls made between LATAs in the same state are called inter-LATA rates. Such calls are also known as intrastate or in-state calls.
- Interstate Rates
Also referred to as state-to-state or out-of-state rates, this term refers to the charge for calls made to other states.
This term stands for Interexchange Carrier, and is the standard term for all long-distance telephone carriers located in the United States.
- Less Than Minimum Penalty
This is a charge that applies to individuals who have calling plans with less per-minute charges, but a required monthly charge for those minutes. This charge is a fee you pay if you do not meet the minimum number of minutes or that month.
- LOA - Letter Of Agency
Some long-distance agencies may require you to sign a LOA form when changing carriers.
- LATA - Local Access Transport Area
Please see Inter-LATA Rates, above.
- Local Toll Calls
Please see Intra-LATA Rates, above.
- Mobile Rates
This charge refers to the fee for calling a mobile phone in another country if your long-distance provider makes a distinction between an out-of-country cell phone and an international landline. Some companies do make this distinction, and some don't. If you frequently make international calls, this may be something you would want to look into.
- Monthly Business Line Charge
Some phone companies charge an additional fee for their customers to have a business line. That charge is referred to as a monthly business line charge.
- Monthly Fee
This is a fixed fee your long-distance carrier will charge on a monthly basis in order to remain with them regardless of your call history that month.
- Monthly Minimum
Some call plans charge a monthly minimum, or a fee for a minimum of dollar usage of your long-distance.
- Monthly Minimum To Avoid Penalty
This is a fee you must pay per month in order to avoid being charged a surcharge for low usage. Some calling plans provide consumers with better per-minute rates if they pay a monthly minimum.
- MRC - Monthly Recurring Cost
This term refers to a fixed fee that some phone companies may require you to pay for some services that are not billed according to how much you use them.
- NPA - Numbering Plan Area
This is the "technical" term for an area code, or the first three digits of a phone number.
- Number Portability
Most phone companies will give you the option of keeping your old phone number when you switch to a new company.
In the U.S., off-peak hours are between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on weekdays. In some other countries, off-peak hours are between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. These times are when phone call volume is lower, and therefore rates are cheaper. Off-peak hours also include Saturdays and Sundays. Keep in mind, though, that in some countries, the weekend rates are not the same as weekday evening rates; however, both rates will always be less than the regular rate. Another thing to note is that most long-distance providers in the United States charge their customers a flat rate regardless of the time of day or the day of the week.
- Originating Calls
This term refers to any call, long-distance or local, made from your phone line.
In the United States, this refers to the period of time between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. when call volume is at its highest. Some countries' peak hours are between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- PICC - Primary Interexchange Carrier Charge
Local telephone companies, or local exchange carriers (LECs) often charge long-distance carriers for using the local network to send and receive long-distance calls. Few long-distance carriers charge the consumer for this fee. See also Access Charges, above.
- RBOC - Regional Bell Operating Companies
These are the "baby bells" referred to in the long distance phone history section of this web site. The baby bells are the original seven phone companies that were created when AT&T was deregulated and broken up.
- RespOrg - Responsible
This company assigns and organizes 800-numbers. If you have an 800-number and decide to switch companies, you will sign a form from this company, or you will be assigned a new 800-number. Also see 800-Number Monthly Fees and 800-Number Rates, above.
- Saturday Rate
See Off-Peak, above.
- Service Address
This refers to the physical location, or street address, of your phone line.
This is an illegal activity practiced by unscrupulous phone service providers. This term refers to a local or long-distance provider charging you without your consent. Again, make sure to check your phone statements monthly, and if you are being slammed, contact the FCC, or even the local Better Business Bureau immediately! To prevent this from happening in the first place, contact the customer service offices of your local and long-distance carriers and ask for a PIC freeze to be placed on your account. Also see Cramming, above.
- Sunday Rate
See Off-Peak, above.
- Switched Access Service
This refers to the "1" you dial prior to the area code when dialing a long-distance number.
- Terminating Calls
These are calls that you receive on your phone line.
- USF Charge - Universal Service Fund
This mandatory fee providers phone and Internet access for all Americans through libraries, schools, and health care providers in out-of-the-way areas, and also assists those in low-income areas with their phone charges.
Hopefully the information provided here will help you in choosing your long-distance provider. Now you can negotiate with confidence and savvy!
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