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DSL Surcharge Plan Abandoned by Major Carriers 204

thedletterman writes to mention a USAToday article about the proposed surcharges on DSL lines. The FCC stepped in just as major carriers Verizon and BellSouth made moves to add a $1-$3 surcharge to their DSL services; they were coincidentally to add this charge just as the Universal Service Fund fee was being removed from all DSL services. From the article: "Verizon, in a statement, said it was dropping the new fee as a result of feedback from consumers: 'We have listened to our customers, and are eliminating the charge.' Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union had another explanation: 'They got caught red-handed in a blatant consumer rip-off. Only under the pressure of regulators cracking down on them did they back off from this unwarranted charge.' The FCC last week sent Verizon a 'letter of inquiry,' the first step in a formal investigation."
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DSL Surcharge Plan Abandoned by Major Carriers

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  • Say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:13AM (#16023413) Homepage
    They wanted to add a charge under the guise of some FCC fee after the fee was eliminated?

    Sounds about right. Who's the terrorist now?

    Tom
    • Re:Say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:23AM (#16023461)
      They wanted to add a charge under the guise of some FCC fee after the fee was eliminated?
       
      It wasn't going to be "under the guise of some FCC fee" at all. That would be one step above their backhanded methods to an outright fraud that would have probably gotten someone some jailtime.
       
        Who's the terrorist now?
       
      In what fashion? Please, if you're one of the people who thinks that the term is thrown around way too much now don't start being a hypocrite and thinking it's cute. It's simply not.
       
      I hate to defend Verizon in light of this news article and I think there is a lot of crap that goes on in the name of better telecommunications that is simply hype. Despite all of this, in the face of the cable industry and their "phoney" ad campaign, Verizon is a fairly honorable company compared to their competition. In a system where we have little choices to be made in the case of broadband internet providers Verizon is probably one of the best companies that I know of. Certainly a sight better than Comcast and their incompetence or their outright lies.
      • Re:Say what? (Score:5, Informative)

        by jank1887 ( 815982 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @10:14AM (#16023743)
        It wasn't going to be "under the guise of some FCC fee" at all

        Correct. Here's the cut and paste from my notice:

        Effective August 14, 2006, Verizon Online will stop charging the FUSF (Federal Universal Ser vice Fund) recovery fee. We will stop being assessed the fee by our DSL network suppliers. Therefore, we will no longer be recovering this fee from our customers. The impact of the FUSF fee is as follows: for customers of Verizon Online with service up to 768Kbps, the fee eliminated is $1.25 a month; for customers of Verizon Online with service up to 1.5 Mbps or 3Mbps, the fee eliminated is $2.83 a month (based on current FUSF surcharge amounts). On your bill that includes charges for August 14, 2006 you will see either a partial FUSF Recovery Fee or no FUSF line item at all, depending on your bill cycle.

        Starting August 26, 2006, Verizon Online will begin charging a Supplier Surcharge for all new DSL customers, existing customers with a DSL monthly or bundle package, and existing DSL annual plan customers at the time their current annual plan expires. This surcharge is not a government imposed fee or a tax; however, it is intended to help offset costs we incur from our network supplier in providing Verizon Online DSL service. The Supplier Surcharge will initially be set at $1.20 a month for Verizon Online DSL customers with service up to 768Kbps and $2.70 per month for customers with DSL service at higher speeds.

        On balance your total bill will remain about the same as it has been or slightly lower.

        It was their hope that the last line was all that anyone would really notice when the bill finally came. "Hey, my bill went down a nickel! Cool!". It was some Verizon exec's way of saying, "hmmmmm... people are willing to pay our prices, and here's a slick little way to add that dropped FUSF fee right into the Profit Margin. No one will be the wiser! We'll call it a 'cost offset'. AND, we'll let them know the 'initial price'. I bet later we can tweak it up a bit at a time, and still keep our advertised rates the same. W00t!"

        Glad the pressure got to them.

      • I hate to defend Verizon in light of this news article and I think there is a lot of crap that goes on in the name of better telecommunications that is simply hype. Despite all of this, in the face of the cable industry and their "phoney" ad campaign, Verizon is a fairly honorable company compared to their competition. In a system where we have little choices to be made in the case of broadband internet providers Verizon is probably one of the best companies that I know of. Certainly a sight better than Com

      • Re:Say what? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RevDobbs ( 313888 ) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @10:19AM (#16023774) Homepage
        Verizon is a fairly honorable company compared to their competition. . . . Certainly a sight better than Comcast and their incompetence or their outright lies.

        I'm not a Comcast customer, so I can't speak on them.

        I was, however, a Cablevision internet ("Optimum Online") and Verizon DSL customer at the same time for about a month, back when Verizon was still running the "Cable is shared and teh slowz!" advertisements (that the FTC later made them stop running). I learned first hand (and demonstrated to anyone I could get over to my apartment) how much faster cable was than DSL -- with out the hassel of putting filters on all the other phone lines, or of PPPoE.

        When I finally called to cancle the service, they tried to keep me on by offering everything from faster service (I didn't even realize that faster DSL was an option) to one year of reduced fees. When I finally said "Look, I have cable, and it is faster with large data and has a lot less lag", the VZ rep put the cancelation through with any further protest. Even Verizon's own employees know that they can't compete with cable internet on a serice basis.

        • Re:Say what? (Score:5, Informative)

          by grapeape ( 137008 ) <mpope7 AT kc DOT rr DOT com> on Friday September 01, 2006 @10:49AM (#16024002) Homepage
          I recently switched back from DSL to cable after initially falling for the "cable is slow because it shared" campaign. After the AT&T merger my DSL bill went from $29 to over $100 month for "pro" DSL with 1 static IP. When I called to see what was up they acted quite rude and firmly stated the "deal" I had was no longer avaialable and had the nerve to say I should be grateful that my rates stayed unchanged so long after the merger, so I hung up, called the cable company and ordered the all-in-once service. Digital Cable, Internet and Digital Phone and its about half what my bills were separately. When I called to cancel my phone service suddenly AT&T wanted to talk...evidently this is happening alot since I was bounced from a "customer retention specialist". They offered deal after deal and just didnt seem to want to accept "shut it off" as an answer.
      • Re:Say what? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @04:23PM (#16026585) Homepage
        Verizon is a fairly honorable company compared to their competition.
        BUAHAHAHAHA! Are you serious? These are the same people who refuse to offer any customer support. Their phone lines are in business 24/7 365 days a year but they only staff a call center from 9-5 PST where I live. When I call the phone number listed on the bill I am told that they only deal with phones and not DSL. The phone number for the DSL call center is not listed on the bill. In addition neither call center communicates with the other. I have given up on calling verizon at all for any reason. Now I only communicate through email.

        Verizon does not offer "naked DSL" in my area or at least they don't let the consumers know if they do. As a result I have a phone line that I do not need. One month a charge appeared on this line even though the line is not even connected to a phone. I called the "Fraud" hotline listed on the bill. Instead of taking me to a fraud department, it informed me that if I continued that I would be charged a fee. I gave up on that and complained via email. They said they could not remove the charge because it was from a third party company. So much for advocating for their own customers! I called the other company and the charge was removed. I asked Verizon to put a note or flag my account for fraud since I don't use my phone line. Therefore no charges should appear except for the monthly charges and fees that they are raping me for even though I don't use the phone. They refused to do anything and even said that they have no way of flagging for fraud. This is an obvious lie but I think it is because they refuse to train their call representatives.

        In my area GTE used to service the phones. When Verizon bought them out is when everything went downhill. My uncle used to work for GTE and when Verizon took over they offered him an early retirement package. A lot of employees took this package. When Verizon was de-briefing these employees, they told them to file for unemployment. So of course my Uncle did. Then Verizon turned around and said that it was illegal for these employees to file and sued them! All of the employees had to give back any money that they had received. This bankrupted more then a few people. My uncle was fiscally responsible so he was fine but it was still an evil backstabbing thing to do!

        So no, Verizon is not honorable. They are a poorly managed mess of a company that only looks out for profits at the expense of the consumer. They hold a monopoly and so are regulated yet they still get away with ripping off consumers on a daily basis. Did I mention that I hate Verizon? This DSL fee crap is just one more thing in a long list of reasons why I hate them. I would switch to cable Internet but that company is even more evil if you can believe it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Fyre2012 ( 762907 )
      Only under the pressure of regulators cracking down on them did they back off from this unwarranted charge

      Proof positive that giant companies will do whatever they want until forced otherwise.
    • by The Monster ( 227884 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:40AM (#16023559) Homepage
      It seems like every time there's an election, there's a referendum on one tax or another. There is a particularly nasty trick that the tax advocates play:
      Year X: This tax is temporary, only for Y years.
      Year X+Y: This isn't really a tax increase, because it replaces the tax passed in Year X. Your tax bill isn't going to go up if this passes.

      Of course, it's usually a different group saying these two things, so that the lie isn't as blatant.

      The regulated monopolies are so in bed with the government that they start to think the same way.

      • Oddly enough, the Bush administration has been doing the opposite - passing 'temporary' tax cuts to make the ten year projections look nicer, with no intention of ever letting it expire (they're generally set up to cause maximum political pain to any politician who dares let it expire).
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:13AM (#16023415) Homepage Journal
    Veriz0wn3d!
  • Darn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:15AM (#16023425)
    Now they're going to have to wait 6 whole months and spend 10 whole minutes coming up with another lame-ass random fee to tack onto your bill!
    • Re:Darn (Score:5, Informative)

      by avdp ( 22065 ) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:23AM (#16023458)
      Or... just raise the base price of the service by $2.70.

      Frankly these fees are ridiculous. Everytime I call a utility company for a quote on phone or broadband services, I specifically request they add all their random little fees and made-up taxes in any price they quote me. It usually takes a little bit of scrambling from the salesperson to get me that number, but they've always been able to tell me. I make my decision accordingly.

      The best so far: Verizon Fios (fiber, if you're lucky enough to have it available in your area). It was $35/month, no fees, no taxes (not even sales taxes!) charged to my credit card monthly. But I moves to the other side of town about 8 months ago and there no Fios available on my street. I do understand that they started charging taxes and/or fees now. I guess it was good while it lasted.
      • When I signed up for SBC/AT&T DSL they automatically quoted me the full with tax price for every single package that I asked about.
      • by djc664 ( 999469 )
        I'm working on bringing utilities to a new construction building in Maryland (around DC). While they do not have fiber (Fios) at the location right now, I was told by the Fiber Service Group for Verizon that if you request fiber to be installed they will do so at no additional cost (typical $80 dollar install fees, of course). They will also supply the converters to translate the digital signal to analog, essentially replacing whatever trunk line they would have put in (in my case, two 25-pair cables backbo
      • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Friday September 01, 2006 @11:45AM (#16024420) Homepage Journal
        Or... just raise the base price of the service by $2.70.

        And you know what? That would be totally acceptable.

        Raising your rates is one thing -- that's just business. It may cost you customers, but it's all part of the value proposition.

        But trying to tack on an unadvertised "fee" that's not really a 'fee' at all, but which somehow you don't advertise as being part of the price of service, that's getting pretty close to misrepresentation in my book.

        Even if all the FCC action did was cause Verizon to take their $2.99 fee and move it from a line-item "Compliance Fee" to part of the base cost of DSL service, that would be a Good Thing, because it would make it harder for them to advertise a price for service that wasn't true.

        IMO, it's unethical and false advertising for them to advertise a price that doesn't include everything except federally mandated fees which are not kept by the company (e.g. sales tax). If it's not going directly to the government, it's not a 'fee,' and it should be included into their advertised rates. If that makes them less competitive, so be it.

        These 'Regulatory Compliance Fees' have got to go; they're misleading to consumers and they make it difficult to make a fair comparison of the costs of service between different companies (i.e. cable and DSL, or cellular and landlines).
  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by yellekc ( 819322 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:17AM (#16023433)
    The FCC stepping up to actually protect consumers? Guess the Telcos need to buy off some more commissioners...
  • by rickkas7 ( 983760 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:23AM (#16023456)
    Here's the specious explanation that Verizon originally gave for the "Supplier Surcharge":

    Dear Valued Verizon Online Customer,

    Effective August 14, 2006, Verizon Online will stop charging the FUSF (Federal Universal Service Fund) recovery fee. We will stop being assessed the fee by our DSL network suppliers. Therefore, we will no longer be recovering this fee from our customers. The impact of the FUSF fee is as follows: for customers of Verizon Online with service up to 768Kbps, the fee eliminated is $1.25 a month; for customers of Verizon Online with service up to 1.5 Mbps or 3Mbps, the fee eliminated is $2.83 a month (based on current FUSF surcharge amounts). On your bill that includes charges for August 14, 2006 you will see either a partial FUSF Recovery Fee or no FUSF line item at all, depending on your bill cycle.

    Starting August 26, 2006, Verizon Online will begin charging a Supplier Surcharge for all new DSL customers, existing customers with a DSL monthly or bundle package, and existing DSL annual plan customers at the time their current annual plan expires. This surcharge is not a government imposed fee or a tax; however, it is intended to help offset costs we incur from our network supplier in providing Verizon Online DSL service. The Supplier Surcharge will initially be set at $1.20 a month for Verizon Online DSL customers with service up to 768Kbps and $2.70 per month for customers with DSL service at higher speeds.

    On balance your total bill will remain about the same as it has been or slightly lower.

    • by finkployd ( 12902 ) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:48AM (#16023599) Homepage
      What made this so amusing was how they denied afterwards that the new surcharge had anything to do with the FCC ending their fee. If they wanted to pretend that, would it not have made more sense to announce them in seperate emails at least?

      Finkployd
    • Elimination of DSL Supplier Surcharge Fee

      Effective immediately, Verizon Online is dropping its previously announced plans to impose a DSL Supplier Surcharge. We are eliminating this surcharge in response to customer concerns. The supplier surcharge has not been included in customer bills, with the exception of a small number of customers who bill their Verizon Online charges to a credit card or receive a direct invoice from Verizon Online. Some of these customers may have already been billed for one month o
      • I haven't tried satellite nor will I. For one simple reason, latency. It's alright if all you do is surf and check email but if you chat, game, or use VoIP there is a wait between the ground, satellite, then back down to you as well as the return trip. Now if I were out somewhere hiking I wouldn't mind it but not when I'm at home.

        Falcon
    • by bhmit1 ( 2270 )
      The "Supplier Surcharge" that Verizon Online DSL pays could only be something paid to Verizon the phone wiring company. So they needed to charge this fee to pay the other part of their own company more, not to mention that this is something that should be factored into the cost of DSL. The various fees are essentially a way to allow false advertising legally. The solution is to make advertising rates without including all the various fees illegal and the problem will quickly go away.

      P.S. Listening to the
  • Moo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chacham ( 981 ) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:25AM (#16023469) Homepage Journal
    Traditionally, i'm against government stepping in. I'm a firm believer that the market should (and will) regulate itself, only requiring laws breaking monopolies on limited necessities. But with consumer's getting more stupidly passive, and companies more ingeniously aggressive, i'm left without a force to join, and the companies, who as a result of frequent changeover and short-termed decisions, never think of the customers as more than a quick way to make money, we need a government body stepping in.

    We are no longer practising Capitalism. This is more of a MoneyGrabism.
    • In my area (Idaho) there is no market - it is Verizon or the dailup.
    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:52AM (#16023613)
      I agree - the free market is great when it's actually free. When there's collusion (price fixing), then I can support government intervention.
      • by Chacham ( 981 ) *
        When there's collusion (price fixing), then I can support government intervention.

        Actually, i'm a bit more harsh than that. If there is collusion, just don't buy the product. If it is a necessity, start your own business and charge less. (I think that works at least theoretically, and should be pursued before jumping to regulation.)

        When it is a necessesity (water, oxygen, etc.) and limited, there is no recourse (you must buy, and from them) an equal force (a governing body, representing the people as a grou
        • natural monopolies (Score:3, Informative)

          by falconwolf ( 725481 )

          Actually, i'm a bit more harsh than that. If there is collusion, just don't buy the product. If it is a necessity, start your own business and charge less. (I think that works at least theoretically, and should be pursued before jumping to regulation.)

          In general I agree but not for landlines, whether copper or fiber. The local governments grant a natural monopoly to the companies that laydown the cable or fiber, I've never heard of someone else being able to laydown cable or fiber alongside what was alr

          • by Chacham ( 981 ) *
            The local governments grant a natural monopoly to the companies that laydown the cable or fiber

            Making it limited. And although not water, phone service is considered a necessity. Thus, being a limited necessity, i am for anti-monopolistic intervention.
    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Intron ( 870560 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:54AM (#16023627)
      Let's try an experiment in letting market forces rule. I set up a PBX and connect up the 6 houses in my neighborhood. I get a bill from the phone company and apportion it based on fixed cost + per minute to the folks using the phone. I will also provide backup VOIP for when the phone goes out or all lines are busy, and a UPS for power outages. My guess is that I have just cut our phone bills in half.

      The experiment is to see how many days it takes for the government and phone company to come out and cut the wires and arrest me.
      • Let's try an experiment in letting market forces rule. I set up a PBX and connect up the 6 houses in my neighborhood. I get a bill from the phone company and apportion it based on fixed cost + per minute to the folks using the phone. I will also provide backup VOIP for when the phone goes out or all lines are busy, and a UPS for power outages. My guess is that I have just cut our phone bills in half. The experiment is to see how many days it takes for the government and phone company to come out and cut th

        • Don't be daft, you won't be arrested. Large office parks and multi-story buildings do exactly that all the time. The only reason you can't build your own competing phone system is that the first time you need to string a wire across or under a street, you're fucked.

          For someone who lives in an apartment, maybe this is something that is feasable.
          I should look into this more and talk to my neighbors and landlord.

          I'm sure we'd all save a lot of money if we split the internet, cable, and telephone bills.
          • For someone who lives in an apartment, maybe this is something that is feasable.
            I should look into this more and talk to my neighbors and landlord.

            I'm sure we'd all save a lot of money if we split the internet, cable, and telephone bills.

            A small group of people are already doing this in NYC. An engineer and tech from a phone or cable company started a business where they laydown fiber from their co to apartments, homes, and offices. They then offer cable, internet access, and phone service and for

        • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tinkerghost ( 944862 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @11:36AM (#16024355) Homepage
          Actually, chances are pretty good he would be arrested. Phone service is extremely regulated - more to keep new people out than to actually control the people already in.
          Office parks and MSB are all corperations controlling the buildings that are being wired. As such they are in effect wiring their own property. Also most MSB's actually don't own the PBX, the TelCo just installs one there for convienence. If he were to wire his own house with an Asterisk [asterisk.com] server - no problems, but reselling that service outside his house is likely to get him in trouble.
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
        You're assuming they don't take the easiest way out and simply revoke your service or accidentally cut your lines numerous times, angering your customers and making them switch from you to regular service.

        Of course, if it was the goverment that discovered it, they'd probably do the arrest thing because you were breaking the law by not paying your taxes on each line you provide.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
        Some years ago I called up J.U.L.I.E. and had them mark all the underground stuff my yard so I could dig without accidentally cutting a telephone trunk or punching a hole in a sewer (my town had aboveground power lines, so I wasn't too worried about that.) Once I knew that the space between my neighbor's house and mine was clear, we trenched a length of CAT-5 between our homes so he could share my 4 Mb @Home connection (4 mbit/sec symmetric in those days, pretty cool.) We had a lot of fun with that setup: I
    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheCarp ( 96830 ) * <sjc AT carpanet DOT net> on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:59AM (#16023653) Homepage
      I don't know about stupidly passive. I think its easy to say that but... I think Scott Adams of Dilbert Fame had it right in one of his books (I believe it was "The Dilbert Princible")... the world is far too complex to be smart all the time.

      I mean ok... the DSL provider just switched around a couple of fees. One no longer being recovered, one new one to line their own pockets.

      The difference is minor... probably about what I spend on my morning coffee. However thats one bill, from one service provider. Take my situation... I pay electric, gas, cell phone, cable, a mortgage, collect rent, collect 4/5 of the bill money from my roomates, water bill, house insurance.

      Theres alot of room in there for a change to just go unnoticed, because I also work 40 hours, study martial arts, and try to have a social life, including seeing my friends and dating. Never mind spending some time here and there with the family.

      Um... believe it or not, I don't have that much time to spend pouring over each and every line item on each and every bill. In fact, if it wasn't for gnucash, I might not have a clue as to what my finances really looked like overall.

      So yah, I could easily get extra fees tacked on and not notice. Does that make me stupidly passive? I don't think its that so much as overly active. My time is spread pretty thin sometimes. I think that is true of alot of people.

      -Steve
      • by Chacham ( 981 ) *
        I could easily get extra fees tacked on and not notice.

        I was really referring to more spectacular cases, but we need to fight it everywhere, even on the small ones.

        We have public media, and it is pretty much their unofficial mandate to report these things. For example, right now on slashdot we hear about it. Now that we all know, we can refuse service, together.

        Does that make me stupidly passive?

        No. But people who just give in because they don't want to lose anything in a fight end up being passive, and IMH
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm generally libertarain minded, too, but the problem is that it just doesn't work in this day and age. These companies are too big. I got charged for a collect call I never accepted (never even received it) last month. Verizon would do nothing and just passed the buck. The original collect call company is difficult to reach and just stands by their "you accepted the call" story. Complaints to anyone in a regulatory agency or government offices produces nothing.

      How am I supposed to fight this? It has not

      • I'll vote for you.
      • by Chacham ( 981 ) *
        How am I supposed to fight this? It has nothing to do with being "stupidly passive".

        This is a bit different in the original case where you have a choice to purchase the service for a published monthly fee, or go without service (from them).

        They know a person will only fight for X number of hours per Y dollars of fake charge.

        And for sure requires government intervention. It's usually called the police (or FBI, etc.) and they enforce this thing known as laws, which in general prohibit stealing. Something basi
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ppz003 ( 797487 )

      Traditionally, i'm against government stepping in. I'm a firm believer that the market should (and will) regulate itself, only requiring laws breaking monopolies on limited necessities. But with consumer's getting more stupidly passive, and companies more ingeniously aggressive, i'm left without a force to join, and the companies, who as a result of frequent changeover and short-termed decisions, never think of the customers as more than a quick way to make money, we need a government body stepping in.

      We a

      • by dal20402 ( 895630 ) * <.dal20402. .at. .mac.com.> on Friday September 01, 2006 @11:09AM (#16024143) Journal

        educate the people to start participating in the free market

        Hmmm, let's see. To run my daily life I deal with...

        • three major credit card companies
        • three major national banks
        • two giant telecommunications companies
        • two insurance companies
        • one power monopoly
        • one large property-management company
        • one federal government (student loan) bureaucracy
        • one auto company
        • 2 city, 1 county, and 1 state government
        • and the usual mix of consumer retailers and manufacturers.

        So what I need to do is drop my life's plans and ambitions (to say nothing of my job) in order to spend years learning about every little detail of each of these businesses or regulatory entities. Even if I do that, I will still have less knowledge about any one of them than any of the thousands of professional staff who have spent their careers learning the details.

        Face it. There is no way even the smartest, most willing-to-learn consumer can prevent himself/herself from being at an information disadvantage in modern society. If the consumer actually wants to live a life instead of constantly learning about uninteresting subjects, the information disadvantage will be worse. If we want to take advantage of the possibilities modern technology and finance offer us, we need to protect the consumer -- not because he/she is "lazy" but because it's *impossible* for him/her to learn all the details.

        There are now only two alternatives to regulation, as imperfect a tool as it is:
        1. large companies and government bureaucracies that are able to screw consumers at will thanks to superior knowledge, or
        2. reverting to a world simple enough for everyone to know all the details... uh, no thanks, I like having cars, computers, electricity, and plentiful food.

        • by Chacham ( 981 ) *
          Or have a group study it for us, publish their findings, and having the people make informed choices.

          Saying that it's too hard to fight, so i'll vote someone in to fight for me, and i will get more without giving up anything, it exactly what i call "stupidly passive".
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dal20402 ( 895630 ) *

            Or have a group study it for us, publish their findings, and having the people make informed choices.

            This approach sometimes works OK when a well-known magazine helps you decide which $50 DVD player is the best value. But it breaks down quickly when things get more complicated.

            First, industry associations often will publish their own materials, and a consumer seeking to educate him/herself may not have any way to tell the difference between a truly independent review and industry publicity. Second, any

      • by Chacham ( 981 ) *
        The only way to not need so much regulation is to educate the people to start participating in the free market.

        So you are for regulation (mandatory education) just you believe in pulling instead of pushing.
    • An extremely simple regulatory fix is really all that's necessary -- require the advertised or quoted price for any good or service to be inclusive of any and all fees, regardless of origin, including the maximum possible sales tax payable in the region advertised.

      Advertised prices would then actually represent what you'd pay (or even less, if for some reason your area had a lower sales tax than the maximum), and businesses wouldn't be able to raise prices without raising prices.

      • by Chacham ( 981 ) *
        They already do this. Look at your phone bill.
      • including the maximum possible sales tax payable in the region advertised.

        So nation-wide adverts should be at a distinct disadvantage to local adverts?

        If you're advertising in a state with no taxs, your quoted price will be MUCH lower than those advertised across the entire country, and forced to quote the "maximum possible sales tax" (probably 10% higher).

        I was with you up until there, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Traditionally, i'm against government stepping in. I'm a firm believer that the market should (and will) regulate itself, only requiring laws breaking monopolies on limited necessities.

      Hello? The government already stepped in and created the monopolies that the telcos enjoy. If it weren't for their so-called "natural" monopoly on the cable plant, they would not be able to get away with 94.32% of the bullshit they do today.

      Anyone who talks about the local telecommunications markets as if they were anything
      • The government already stepped in and created the monopolies that the telcos enjoy.

        They didn't really CREATE them... that's why it's called a "natural" monopoly. You can't have 500 phone companies getting permission to install telephone poles in your yard, digging up the roads, etc.

        The problem isn't that it's a monopoly... The problem is that the government refuses to treat it like the monopoly it is, and regulate it accordingly.
    • No this is the Corporate Aristocracy Thomas Jefferson warned of.

      Falcon
    • But with consumer's getting more stupidly passive,

      How can you blame consumers for being stuck with only one or two choices for broadband?

      It's a duopoly (at BEST), and should be regulated as such, instead of pretending there's any kind of a free market here.
  • by mobiux ( 118006 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:25AM (#16023470)
    "we have listened to our customers, and are eliminating the charge."

    I want to live in Verison world, where unless people tell you otherwise, they want to be ripped off.

    I just can't comprehend how fucked up corporations are.

  • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:25AM (#16023475) Homepage Journal
    These "service charges" should be illegal as they stand today. Many Canadian cellular carriers use this very same practise. There was some sort of meeting between the heads of the carrier families where they all agreed to introduce a "government licensing fee" or "federal satellite licensing fee" of $6.95 per month. This went on for years. The government finally perked up and said "Hey, we don't charge that licensing fee" and demanded the charge to be dropped (though not refunded, naturally). The carriers eagerly complied by renaming it a "system access fee", and it is still in place today.

    These fees are nothing but a vehicle for false advertising and a covert way to increase prices unannounced. Carriers can legally advertise a plan to be $20 per month when in fact it is $26.95. Thus, no carrier can afford to be honest or they will appear to be the most expensive service.

    Hello, legislation?
    • What's really interesting is that when I was on prepaid cell phone service, I didn't have to pay for the system access fee. Mind you, they charged me 33 cents a minute, but I didn't pay it. 6.95 gets you 21 minutes at the rate they were charging. If you are a casual cell phone user and don't make long calls, only calls when necessary, you might be better off with prepaid cell service. However, this was about 3 years ago. I'm current on a plan, which ends up costing me $50 a month.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by spyrochaete ( 707033 )
        Precisely why I'm about to switch to prepaid. I'll probably go with Virgin Mobile who offers all kinds of extras for a lower price.
    • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:52AM (#16023616) Journal
      Didn't you study economics? Costs such as this used to be called "The cost of doing business". In today's modern economy however it is now known as "Sticking it to you as hard as we can and you can't do shit about it".

      I look forward to seeing on my bill:
            $5 Gas for installation truck fee
            $10 Catered lunch for marketing dept fee
            $20 Lack of alternatives in the market fee
            $3 Sending you this abusive letter fee
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anti_Climax ( 447121 )
        I can't find the exact post, but someone here previously suggested sending a bill for your "Check Writing Fee" or something similar along with the payment you make.

        No one will likely notice or care, but after 90 days, send a quick letter to their accounts payable department letting them know it will be going to collections if it's not paid. Chances are good you'll get a check for whatever amount you're looking for, provided it's not overly large.

        Might I suggest a bill for your "Consumer Resources Recovery F
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hrodvitnir ( 101283 )
          Not exactly the same, but my auto insurance company charges me $3.50 every time I make a payment. So if I just pay the monthly bill, I end up paying an extra $21 during a six month insurance period. Talk about sleezy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by erroneus ( 253617 )
      I'd like to attach a rider to that legislation that would remove that STUPID-ASSED 0.9cents/gallon tacked onto the price of a gallon of gasoline!!! We all know why they started doing it. It's just shy of a penny. Some people actually think that it's a "tax." It's not... the tax is much higher. But the brain registers $3/gal when it's really closer to $3.01/gal.

      Let's call it the "straight-shooter" law that disallows the misleading publication of prices in consumer advertising. The spirit of the law sho
  • If they really wanted to appease their customers, why don't they drop cost of DSL to $4.99 /month? I am sure a few of their 'customers' are calling for lower rates.
  • by Danga ( 307709 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:33AM (#16023515)
    Riiigggght... more like they got busted attempting a money grab and are taking the charge away to save face. I mean what do they think there really are customers who like paying 10,000 extra little fees on top of the advertised "$29.99" or whatever per month. If they really wanted to listen to the customers then they would get rid of all of the additional fees that customers have gotten used to as well.

    How many people here hate getting a phone bill and while you signed up for some great deal such as $29.99/month the real charge with all of the extra hidden fees is more like $39.99? That pisses me off to no end and I wish they would eliminate doing that completely but I know the chances of that ever happening are nil.
    • I mean what do they think there really are customers who like paying 10,000 extra little fees on top of the advertised "$29.99" or whatever per month.

      Verizon is notorious for this, even in their wireless service. It proves that the arrogance issue starts at the top, given that wireless is in a different Verizon subsidiary. We changed a year from T-Mobile to Verizon. We picked a plan that was advertised at almost exactly the same cost. It had a slightly smaller number of minutes included in the package,

  • by The_REAL_DZA ( 731082 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:34AM (#16023522)
    because once their customers get the idea the companies are actually listening to them there's going to start hearing a lot of complaining.
  • More on this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dcgirl20006 ( 819699 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:40AM (#16023556)
    This is the website [hearusnow.org] from Kimmelman's team, has a bunch of info on the press release and the fees.
  • I saw this on the last bill I received from Verizon. There was a leaflet indicating that they would no longer be charging me the $1.73 FCC Universal Service Fund fee. However, they were then adding their own (non-FCC mandated) fee of $1.65 to the bill. There was additional language basically saying that I should be grateful since I'd be saving a whole 8 cents a month blah blah blah. It pissed me off when I read it, but I'm glad the FCC stepped in and stopped this crap. Of course, it just means that Verizon
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @10:00AM (#16023657)

    I'm dropping Verizon land line service in favor of VOIP in a week or so. I got an expensive collect call charged to my bill last month, a call I never accepted, and the date/time stamp showed it supposed ocurred when I was at work (and I live alone). Verizon's response was "Oh, we just poass those charges from the original collect call company." Contacting the other company produced nothing, and a quick online investigation shows that they are the source of many phone line scams.

    Fuck you, Verizon. By passing on the charges and doing NOTHING for your customers, you are an enabler, and just as guilty as the other company. Fuck you, fuck the cocksucking MBAs who made you what you are, and kiss my lilly white ass.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm dropping Verizon land line service in favor of VOIP in a week or so. I got an expensive collect call charged to my bill last month, a call I never accepted, and the date/time stamp showed it supposed ocurred when I was at work (and I live alone). Verizon's response was "Oh, we just poass those charges from the original collect call company." Contacting the other company produced nothing, and a quick online investigation shows that they are the source of many phone line scams.

      I used to work at a phone

      • Well, they are losing my $40 a month AND my intention to get DSL. I'll stick with Charter Cable and upgrade to their new VOIP/3 Mbps package. *They* haven't scammed me (yet), and their uptime in my area is about 99.9%.

        But you illustrate what I mean. I have to file something with the FCC for a $20 phone charge.

        • by puto ( 533470 ) *
          I just resigned from around 4 years of my life working with a BellSouth Companies.

          The problem with the fee is it is not the carriers fault, but the FCC.

          Common carrier status legally has to let large telcos bill for third parties over their network. nothing Verizon can do about it, but hold off on the contested charges until the 30-60 days which they will do. You just have to call and tell them, and they can dispute it for you.

          The Tele act of 1996 allowed this to happen, which is good in a lot ways, becaus
    • Yeah, kind of like how back in 2000 Verizon said by 2006, 80+% of US households would have 45+ M/bit synchronous fiber connection. All the while bilking customers for all they're worth; on top of all the government grants they got that seemed to go nowhere except into the shareholders and CEO's pockets.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      IANAL, but:

      Rather than ranting like a lunatic, don't pay it. Verizon cannot legally drop your phone service if you don't pay that 3rd-party charge. The 3rd party has to come after you to collect, which they won't do if the charge is fraudulent. Also, take 2 minutes and file a complaint with the FCC.

      http://www.puco.ohio.gov/PUCO/Consumer/information .cfm?doc_id=1168 [ohio.gov]

      http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/news/080702fraudwk3.html [fcc.gov]
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @10:23AM (#16023801) Homepage
    If they had been paying off their politicians correctly and on-time, this would never have happened. Shame on you telecom companies. I hope you've learned your lessons.
  • Surcredits (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gregRowe ( 173838 )
    I'm tired of companies that offer a contract with a set price only to change the price arbitrarily with "surcharges." The odds are completely in the companies favor. They have a customer locked into a mult-year contract with a certain minimum price but the company can raise prices on a whim with "surcharges." If they can do that why can't I add in my own "surcredits?"

    I recently dropped my garbage collection company because of surcharges. I've really respect companies that charge me ONE price per month w
  • by base3 ( 539820 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @10:59AM (#16024074)
    They jacked up the "Regulatory Compliance Fee" (i.e. we want you to think this is a tax, but is just gravy for us fee) from $2.24 to $4.16.
  • Only under the pressure of regulators cracking down on them did they back off from this unwarranted charge.

    Damned Federal Regulators! Just once I'd like to see a Liberitarian Administration in power that would once-and-for-all allow our precious Corporations the Freedom to conduct their business without the constant threat of Federal Regulators stepping in.

    Then we'd see an Internet where I could watch Home Shopping Network in High Definition Video without having to worry that all the pipes will get fil

  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter.tedata@net@eg> on Friday September 01, 2006 @11:09AM (#16024145) Journal
    Phone companies will quite frequently attempt to pass off certain charges to the consumer through "fees." For example, the Universal Service Fee is a payment from you that goes directly to the FCC for the Universal Service Fund, the fund that pays for eRate, the government subsidization program that helps fund schools' telecommunication access (POTS, internet, long-distance, equipment to keep it all in order). The same thing is done with 911 access. The government bills the providers, and the providers just pass the bill onto consumers.

    When our school switched over from AT&T to a regional long-distance provider, the rep at the regional company gave me a little insight to AT&T's various "fees." Ever take a look at the "FCC Line Charge"? According to AT&T [att.com] (requires flash, and you'll need to zoom in to read the thing), it is an "FCC-approved flat-rate monthly charge paid by consumers to their Local Telephone Company so that the Local Telephone Company can recover the costs, not recovered in local rates, that are associated with connecting customers to the long distance network." Now don't you love how that works? They can advertise that their phone line only costs $18 a month, then hit you up for another $11 to cover costs that are "not recovered in local rates." And how about the "Carrier Cost Recovery Fee?" [att.com] AT&T just doesn't want to have to pay their own property taxes, so they pass the cost onto consumers. I was told by the rep that AT&T has been known to pass whatever fees it can to the consumer, whatever can be FCC and state approved. Even approved "expansion fees" can be funneled into paying for new office buildings that "house infrastructure."
  • by scronline ( 829910 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @11:19AM (#16024230) Homepage
    Believe you me, they WILL continue to get the income from it one way or another. As a DSL provider myself, our circuit costs mysteriously went up 1 month before the FUSF fee was eliminated. FUSF has ALWAYS been nothing more than a slush fund for the telcos anyway. Which in and of itself is why they wanted to replace it with a service fee.

    Because people keep using the telcos for things like this (money speaks louder than words with corperations) very few independant ISPs have the power to do anything about it. Look at it, Earthlink couldn't stop it, Covad couldn't stop it, and I know I sure couldn't have stopped it. If people quit using telcos for their DSL and went to the independant ISP we could actually fight stuff like this on capitol hill.

    There's no sense in rehashing all this yet again so....'nough said

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