Your Guide to Telephone Disconnection and Reconnection
If you receive a telephone service disconnection notice, you should contact your local telephone company to make payment arrangements. Local telephone companies may have assistance programs that discount basic telephone service through the Lifeline program for those who qualify. You may also be able to reduce the cost of your phone service by asking for only basic local exchange service with no add-ons. The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) provides this information to help you avoid disconnection or to be reconnected to your telephone service.
Disconnection of bundled service
If you have a bundled service (i.e., basic local service plus several features, such as caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, etc., or basic service plus one or more other services, such as Internet or TV), your rights and obligations regarding disconnection of service is spelled out in the contract with your service provider. You should read it carefully and keep a copy of the contract handy.
Telephone providers bundled customers are not regulated by the state and fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) at www.fcc.gov.
Requirements for disconnection of Basic Landline Exchange Service (BLES)
If you have BLES, which is telephone service with no additional features or bundled services, then your telephone company must follow specific rules before your service can be disconnected for non-payment. Your telephone company may disconnect your basic service for nonpayment of any past due amount on your bill. However, your service cannot be disconnected sooner than 14 days after the due date on your bill.
Your telephone company must send you a notice at least seven days before your basic telephone service is disconnected. Keep in mind, this notice may be sent separately from your bill. If the notice is included with your bill, the bill must be postmarked at least seven days before the disconnection date and the disconnection language must be clearly highlighted so that it stands apart from the regular bill language.
The disconnection notice must identify the total dollar amount that must be paid to maintain basic service, provide the earliest date disconnection may occur (which cannot be earlier than 14 days after the account is past due), and provide contact information for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the OCC.
How to get Basic Landline Exchange Service reconnected
In Ohio, a telephone company that disconnects a customer’s basic local service for nonpayment must reconnect the customer’s service if the customer:
- Pays all past due charges for which the service was disconnected; or
- Makes the first payment under a payment arrangement that the customer and the phone company have mutually agreed upon.
Once either of these payments has occurred, the telephone company must reconnect the customer’s basic service by the end of the next business day, unless the customer requests a different date or circumstances beyond the company’s control prevent reconnection.
You may be responsible for deposit and reconnection charges. Deposit fees cannot exceed 230 percent of the estimated charges for one month’s local service. The local telephone company cannot force you to pay any charges that were not on the disconnection notice for you to be reconnected.
“Warm line” service
Whether you have basic service or a bundle, your local telephone company must allow you to have access to emergency services for at least 14 days past the date your residential service is disconnected for non-payment. This will allow you to call 9-1-1 or an operator where 9-1-1 access is not available. You will not be able to make calls to non-emergency services (e.g., family members, a hospital, or doctor), nor will you be able to receive calls.