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Regional Bells Allowed to Increase Phone Bill Fee

Tip of the Week archives from June 2002

A decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lets the regional Bell telephone companies add $1 to your bill starting July 1. The federal "subscriber line charge" is supposed to allow the Bells to recover costs of connecting long distance calls to their local phone networks. As of July the maximum monthly charge can go up to $6 from the current $5 cap.

According to the FCC, this charge may appear on your bill as "FCC Charge for Network Access," "Federal Line Cost Charge," "Interstate Access Charge," "Federal Access Charge," "Interstate Single Line Charge," or "Customer Line Charge." This is not a government charge or tax, and it does not end up in the government's treasury. The money is kept by the Bell telephone companies -- Ameritech, Pacific Bell, Qwest (formerly US West), Southwestern Bell (SBC), Verizon (formerly Bell Atlantic).

Low income subscribers can apply for a "lifeline" program through their local phone company, which reduces or eliminates the fee.