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Customer Notifications & Policies
Call Quality Challenges
Call Quality Challenges
Adams strives to provide excellent service at all times. However, people who live in rural areas all around the country are reporting that calls to them are not getting through, or they are getting calls with poor quality.
You may be experiencing any of the following:
- Someone tells you they tried to call you but the call didn’t get through or the call rang on their end but your phone did not ring.
- A call came through to you but the quality was poor.
- A call came through but the caller ID was incorrect.
The problem starts with the carrier used by the customer who makes the call, not your local telecommunications provider. The problem can only be resolved by the carrier used by the customer who makes the call.
This nationwide epidemic is negatively affecting local businesses, public safety, and our relationships with our customers. Rural carriers have complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and state agencies. The FCC has created a task force to investigate and address the issue and rural telco advocates are encouraging swift and severe action against all of the providers at the center of the problem. We are hopeful that the large nationwide providers involved in these issues or the FCC will act quickly to address these problems.
In the meantime, here’s what you can do:
- Ask for the name of the long-distance carrier used by the person trying to reach you.
- Call your local provider and give them details. Include the name of the carrier used by the caller so that we can contact the carrier on your behalf to try and resolve the issue.
- Go to www.fcc.gov/complaints to file an informal wired telephone service complaint with the FCC against the carrier used by the person trying to call you (not your local service provider), and encourage the caller to do the same.
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Enforcement Bureau has entered into a consent decree with Level 3 Communications, LLC (Level 3) which resolves and terminates an investigation into possible violations of the Communications Act with respect to Level 3’s call completion practices in rural areas, including its use and monitoring of intermediate providers. Level 3 will make a voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $975,000, and will develop and implement a wide-ranging compliance plan to ensure that it will complete calls to rural areas and that its call routing practices comply with the Communications Act.
The FCC is finally getting serious about cracking down on rural call completion failures. More information about the ruling may be found by visiting the FCC’s website here.
Federal Subscriber Line Charge (SLC)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that local telephone companies recover a portion of the costs of the facilities we use to connect your home or business for services through a monthly assessment on all residential and business customers. Commonly known as the federal “subscriber line charge,” this assessment is part of the FCC’s effort to promote a competitive framework for the U.S. telecom industry. The federal SLC is a flat monthly charge assessed directly on your bill.
The FCC established the federal SLC as a way to reduce the “access charges” paid by long-distance companies but still compensate local companies for the use of our networks by those carriers to gain “access” to their customers. Prior to the establishment of the SLC, long-distance carriers were assessed a per-minute “access” charge to use our facilities, but the FCC changed the way we charge for that cost. For purposes of competition, the FCC decided to target end-user customers more directly for these costs. As a result, the SLCs result in no additional revenue for local telephone companies.
Federal Universal Service Charge (FUSC)
The Federal Universal Service Charge (FUSC), also authorized by the FCC, is not part of your local service rate; the charge helps to keep rates affordable for all Americans, regardless of where they live. The amount of the FUSC on your monthly bill depends on the services you order and the number of telephone lines you have. Generally, the surcharge is applied per line.
The Federal Universal Service Fund assists with the costs of providing affordable telecommunication services to low-income individuals and to residents in rural, high-cost areas. In addition, Congress has expanded the program to help schools, libraries, and rural health care providers obtain leading-edge services, such as high-speed Internet access. All telecom providers contribute to these universal service programs.
Illinois Universal Service Charge (IUSC)
In addition to the federal programs, some states collect fees to support their own universal service programs. Like other telecom providers in Illinois (IL), we collect fees for the IL Universal Service Fund that is administered by the IL PUC. The IL Universal Service Charge supports universal service programs within our state. Most, if not all, telecom providers in the state contribute to the IL Universal Service Fund to help keep basic local rates affordable for everyone in the state.
The IL PUC has authorized telecom providers to recover their universal service contributions through a customer charge. The PUC uses the IL Universal Service Fund to ensure that community based companies in high-cost areas have sufficient financial support to keep basic local rates affordable for all IL citizens. As with the federal support program, the IL Universal Service Fund is distributed to individual companies based on the costs we incur in serving our particular areas of the state.
The E-911 charge is a state/local government charge to fund emergency-911 services, such as fire and rescue.
Local Number Portability (LNP) Charge
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that telecom providers allow customers to keep their existing telephone numbers when they switch from one service provider to another. The Local Number Portability (LNP) charge is a fixed, monthly charge established by the FCC to allow local companies to recover some of our costs to provide telephone number “portability” to customers.
Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Charge
Local telecom companies offer Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) to help hearing- or speech-impaired individuals communicate via the telephone. This charge prints as “Hearing Impaired” on your Adams bill. TRS is required by Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act and to the extent possible, must be “functionally equivalent” to standard telecommunication services. Communications Assistants (CAs) relay the content of calls between users of special text telephones (TTYs) and users of traditional telephones. For example, a TTY user can use the phone by calling a TRS provider (or relay center), where a CA will place the call to the voice user and relay the conversation by transcribing spoken content for the TTY user and reading text aloud for the voice user.
Costs for intrastate TRS (that is, TRS calls made within a state) are paid by the individual states. Generally, states recover the TRS costs through a small assessment on all telephone customers in the state.
Federal Excise Taxes
Your bill includes the 3% federal excise tax levied by the federal government that applies to all telecom services, not just local service. This tax dates back to 1898 when it was enacted to finance the Spanish-American War. In addition, many state, local, and/or municipal governments impose taxes on telecom services and, if applicable, these taxes are listed on your bill. In some states, these charges may appear as a “gross receipts” or “franchise” tax.
Long Distance Service Surcharges
Federal Universal Service Charge
This charge (also called the Federal Universal Connectivity Fee or Carrier Universal Service Charge) is similar to the FUSC for local service. All telecom providers, including long-distance companies, are required to contribute to the support of federal universal service.
Charges From Other Providers
Q. I do not recognize a company listed on my bill. Who are they, and why are they billing me?
A. Your bill must include the name and toll-free telephone number of any company that has charged you for its services, along with the charges for those services. If you don’t recognize the company or have questions about the services for which you’ve been billed, call the company to ask for more information about the services.
Some service providers do not bill their customers directly, so they must contract with local companies to bill for them. These service providers send us your usage data electronically, and we use that information to bill on their behalf. Increasingly, telemarketers and scam artists use customers’ phone numbers to post unauthorized and fraudulent charges in the data sent to us for billing. These charges can be for many things, but the result is that the charges are included in the billing data. We have no way to monitor its accuracy. The billing rules are intended to make sure that the format of your bill helps you more easily identify any unauthorized or fraudulent charges.
Q. Why are the charges from each company listed separately on my bill?
The Truth In Billing (TIB) rules explained below require that we organize your bill so that charges from each company billing you for service appear separately. For example, if you have chosen one long-distance company for your in-region (intraLATA) long-distance calls and another for your out-of-region and state-to-state (interLATA) calls, your bill will list the calls with each company separately.
Q. A company has listed charges on my bill for telephone-related services that I do not understand, and the description is unclear. How can I get them explained?
A. You may find charges on your bill that are not from your local company. The name and toll-free number of the company charging you for telephone-related services is listed in the section where those charges appear. You should call that company and ask for an explanation. You can also dispute the charges and request that the company remove them from your bill. As your local company, we remind you that as part of our service commitment, our business office is always available if you have questions about your bill. If you have any difficulty in contacting the service providers listed on your bill, or if you’re not satisfied with the response they give you, we will help you resolve the problem.
Q. There is a statement on my bill that says, “This company did not bill you for services in the previous billing cycle.” What does that mean?
In its rules, the FCC ordered that customers be notified of a “new” service provider any time a bill includes charges from a company that did not bill the customer for services in the previous billing cycle. However, such notification applies only to “subscribed” services; i.e., when a service provider has a continuing relationship with a customer and likely places regular or periodic charges on your bill. For example, long-distance surcharges, voice mail, Internet access, and other services that continue until you terminate them, are subject to the notification rule. On the other hand, services billed on a per-transaction basis, such as directory assistance, dial-around (10-10) toll calls, and other “non-recurring” pay-per-call services, are not subject to the notification requirements.
Q. If I want to dispute a charge that appears on my bill – and don’t pay the charge while I’m disputing it – how will I know if my local service will be disrupted?
A. We identify all charges on your bill that, if not paid, could result in the disconnection of your basic local service; such services are listed as “deniable” charges. Our (STATE PUC) designates the individual charges we must classify as “deniable,” and those charges are identified on your bill. Non-payment of other, “non-deniable” charges can result in the termination of that specific service, but will not lead to the disconnection of basic local service. If you don’t recognize the charges, you should call the toll-free number listed on the bill within 60 days to ensure there is no interruption of the service in question.
Q. I am confused about some of the toll-free numbers listed on my bill. Is the actual service provider always the appropriate party for me to contact ?
A. Some service providers bill you directly. Others use third parties, known as “billing agents” or “aggregators,” to bill for them. Thus, the actual service provider is not always the appropriate party to contact if you have questions or problems. In fact, some service providers have contracted with third-party billing agents or aggregators just to handle inquiry and dispute resolution of the charges placed on your bill.
The rules require that the toll-free number listed on your bill as the “inquiry contact” – regardless of whether it’s for the actual provider, a billing agent, or an aggregator – must connect you to someone who has “sufficient knowledge and authority” to resolve account inquiries and requests for adjustment. The FCC allows the use of inquiry contacts because of consumer concerns about the complexity of their bills and because of increased fraud and abuse. Inquiry contacts are intended to help consumers become more educated about their bills and the billing process.
Q. Are service providers required to list their business address? How can I contact a provider if I’m not satisfied with the resolution reached on the phone?
A. Service providers are not required to include their business address on each telephone bill for the receipt of consumer inquiries and complaints. However, they are required to make their business address available to consumers on request through their toll-free number.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a number of requirements and standards that community based telecom providers, other local telephone companies, and most telecom companies must follow when billing their customers. These rules are commonly referred to as “Truth in Billing” (TIB). The FCC established these TIB rules to help consumers better understand how they are billed for telecom services and to combat the rising incidence of slamming, cramming, and other telephone fraud and abuse.
In summary, the rules are designed to ensure that your bill is clearly organized and that you can identify the provider associated with each charge. In addition, your bill must include a clear description of all charges and list a toll-free number for you to call for further explanation.
Illinois Relay Service
For more information, visit the Illinois Relay Service website here.