The Telephone section represents the public in matters brought before the Utilities Commission involving regulated telecommunications providers. These providers offer local, long distance, and payphone services and are subject to the varying degrees of regulatory oversight by the Utilities Commission.
As a result of changes in state law, the Utilities Commission’s authority to regulate the rates and services offered by telecommunications providers is somewhat limited and dependent upon the regulatory classification of the telecommunications provider. Further, not all services offered by telecommunications providers are under the jurisdiction of the Utilities Commission.
What Services Are Not Regulated by the Utilities Commission
Internet services, broadband service used to access Internet services, and video service offered by telecommunications providers are not subject to regulatory oversight by the Utilities Commission. Also, service plans for wiring and equipment maintenance and voicemail services are exempt from regulatory oversight. The prices and quality of long distance services are also not regulated by the Utilities Commission.
When regulated services are offered in combination ("bundled") with non-regulated services, the bundled service packages are not subject to regulatory oversight. Consumers need to understand the terms of the bundled offering when subscribing to bundled packages. For example, consumers need to understand whether they are committing to long-term plans or month-to-month plans.
And pursuant to provisions in state laws, many incumbent and competing local providers have become mostly exempt from Utilities Commission regulation of their retail telephone services, with no oversight of rates or service. For these companies, the Utilities Commission can only provide limited assistance to consumers.
Information for Consumers
What are these charges appearing on my phone bill?
For a detailed description, please refer to the Federal Communications Commission FCC website. If it's a telephone landline charge that is regulated by the state public service commission, please contact us.
What Can I Do If I Am Not Satisfied With My Telephone Service?
As a general rule, consumers have the right to file a complaint with their telephone provider. If the response from the telecommunications provider is not satisfactory, a complaint may be filed with the Consumer Services Division which handles informal complaints on behalf of the Utilities Commission.
Must I Use My Incumbent or Traditional Local Telephone Company?
No. As a result of changes to federal and state laws, as well as regulatory choices made by the incumbent local telephone providers, consumers are not limited to a single provider. However, although the competing local providers are granted authority to provide service throughout North Carolina, they are able to choose where to offer service. Therefore, competing local providers may limit the areas in which they offer service and service options may be limited in certain areas of the state.
Where are the Incumbent Local Telephone Companies Located?
Competing local providers are granted authority to provide service throughout North Carolina, but may choose where to offer service. Further, these providers are not required to inform the Utilities Commission where they serve.
What are North Carolina’s Area Codes?
The State is divided into six geographic areas called Numbering Plan Areas or (NPAs). A statewide map shows all area codes.
Individual NPA maps are below:
What Telecommunications Providers Offer Service in North Carolina?
A list of Telephone Providers can be found on the Utilities Commission’s web site.
How to Read Your Bill?
The FCC has a factsheet describing how to read your phone bill and includes the various types of add-ons that telecommunications providers include on bills.
What is Telephone Slamming?
Slamming is illegal. The practice known as “slamming” is an alleged unauthorized conversion of a customer’s local and/or long distance service to a telecommunications company without the informed consent of the customer. Be aware of:
- Contests promising big prizes. Your signature on an entry form may be interpreted as an agreement to switch telephone carriers.
- Telemarketers or sales vendors promising free gifts, lower rates, and better service for switching.
- Service changing without any customer contact.
If You Have Been Slammed
To properly investigate a slamming complaint, we need additional information such as an account number, and a copy of a bill that “reflects” disputed charges, and any other documentation that would assist us in understanding and pursuing a complaint.
Once we have received this additional information, we will begin an investigation of your complaint. Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions.
How to Prevent Slamming
- Ask your local phone company for a Primary Interexchange Carrier (PIC) freeze. This will prevent a change in long distance service without a written request.
- Read your phone bill carefully each month and report unfamiliar charges to your local phone company.
- Contact your local telephone company to confirm your preferred long distance carrier.
- Make sure that everyone in your household knows who is really authorized to make any changes to your phone service.
- Never sign anything without reading it thoroughly.
- If you receive a call or notice to “verify” a change in service that you did not authorize, notify the company immediately that you do not want to change.
What is Lifeline Service?
Lifeline is a government benefit program offered by the FCC that provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income subscribers to help ensure they can connect to the nation's communications networks, find jobs, access health care services, connect with family and their children's schools, and call for help in an emergency. The discount is limited to only one per household.
Not all local service providers offer Lifeline service. To get more information on Lifeline service, or to locate a provider offering Lifeline service in North Carolina, go to the Lifeline Information Page. To apply for Lifeline service, contact one of the Lifeline Program providers. The Utilities Commission does not accept applications for Lifeline service.
What is Telecommunications Relay Service?
Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) allows a Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf-Blind, or Speech-Impaired individual to use special equipment to call to a relay center. A specially trained operator relays messages between the relay user using a text telephone or an assistive device and a hearing person using a standard telephone. To use the telecommunications relay service, anyone can dial 7-1-1 almost anywhere in the United States. This service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
The FCC established, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a national Do-Not-Call Registry. The registry is nationwide in scope, applies to all telemarketers (with the exception of certain non-profit organizations), and covers both interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls. Commercial telemarketers are not allowed to call you if your number is on the registry, subject to certain exceptions. As a result, consumers can, if they choose, reduce the number of unwanted phone calls to their homes.
You can register your phone numbers for free, and they will remain on the list until you remove them or discontinue service – there is no need to re-register numbers.
Note, the Do-Not-Call registry does not prevent all unwanted calls. It does not cover the following:
- calls from organizations with which you have established a business relationship;
- calls for which you have given prior written permission;
- calls which are not commercial or do not include unsolicited advertisements; or
- calls by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations.
Other Consumer Links
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