When considering local and long distance telephone service providers, look up telephone companies on the Internet and in your phone directory, and ask friends and relatives about their providers. Several phone shopping comparison links are available online, with links to Indiana telecommunications service providers available here.
Keep shopping if:
- The company refuses to provide information in writing.
- You don’t understand the rates or charges, and the company does not explain them to your satisfaction.
You may live in an area where many telecommunications service providers compete for your business, giving you many options and the opportunity to save money by choosing solutions that meet your needs. The keys to shopping for telecommunications services are to know your needs and understand your options. Whether you use a traditional landline, wireless service, Internet-based phone service, or a combination, every residential and business customer will have different calling needs.
Many telephone service providers offer “bundled” local and long distance services for a monthly flat rate. Bundled plans may benefit consumers who make many long distance calls, want convenience or want a number of optional services such as caller ID, voice mail, etc. For other consumers, combining separate plans and service options may be the most cost-effective option.
Wireless telephone service providers usually offer "family plans," which may offer substantial savings based on phone usage in your household, while "unlimited" calling plans involve no usage limitations or overage charges. If you consider such a service, it is helpful to know how many minutes you average per month and to research whether a current or different plan may actually be more economical.
Some telecommunications service providers also offer service packages that combine cable/satellite television, Internet and telephone services into a bundled plan. These packages may offer some consumers substantial savings on their telecommunications services. However, consumers should study all of their needs to ensure that they receive the services they have chosen in the most cost-effective manner. The OUCC Website offers publications and links that can help with these decisions.
To understand your telephone service needs, review your monthly phone bills to determine your calling pattern. Begin by reviewing:
Once you understand your calling pattern, compare the different options (such as landline and wireless companies, prepaid calling cards, Internet service providers, and 10-10 "dial-around" numbers). Review provider Websites and request written information on companies’ offers to ensure there is no misunderstanding. Keep in mind that you may be able to select different companies and different services for different types of long distance calls such as state-to-state calls and local long distance calls. (A "local long distance call" is a call made outside your local calling area but within an industry-defined region known as a "local access transport area [LATA]." There are 10 such regions in Indiana.)
When considering your needs for local telephone service, determine the average number of calls you make or receive each month and the optional services you would like to have. Check with providers to compare their flat-rate plans and per-call plans, as well as any packages of optional plans.
As with any contract or purchase, read the fine print.
If you are changing from one wireless service provider to another, be aware of whether you are violating the terms of an existing service contract. Early termination penalties are likely to apply and may be considerable.
Various calling plans from telephone service providers (including landline, wireless and Internet) offer unlimited long distance calling with no per-call fees. Some plans offer completely unlimited long distance calling while others offer unlimited calling under certain conditions (certain times of the day, wireless-to-wireless, etc.).
An unlimited plan may help some customers save money, but not all. If you clearly understand your calling patterns and typical telephone usage, you can determine whether such a plan is right for you.
If switching providers within a local calling area, you may be able to keep your current telephone number. Be sure to ask about this and visit Websites on wireless local number portability (linked from the OUCC site) for additional information. Regardless, do not cancel your existing phone service. Allow your new provider to handle the changes, and be ready to give your new provider a copy of your most recent bill. Also, be aware that only specific phones will work on a specific wireless provider’s network due to technological restrictions. If you need a new wireless phone, find out about the costs and possible discounts.
Telecommunications services, options and billing plans are constantly evolving. By monitoring current trends and visiting provider Websites on a regular basis, you may find a better deal (or deals) than what you currently have. Reducing your telephone bill may also be as simple as contacting your current provider and requesting a lower rate.
Regardless of which service(s) you choose, be sure to shop for the best deal. Remember that a provider should be able to answer any questions you may have about its services, and always remember to read the fine print.
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204