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Telephone Bill Made Easy

Telephone Bill Made Easy

You receive and pay your telephone bill every month, but do you know what the charges on your bill mean? This information from the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, your residential utility consumer advocate, explains your landline phone bill and the charges you may see on your bill.

Landline phone service, or wireline service, is traditional wired phone service. Landline phone service should not be confused with other phone service options that are available to consumers. These options include wireless phone service (cell phones and smartphones), Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which is phone service over an internet connection, and prepaid phone services from providers. There are also bundled packages, which can combine phone service with other services like internet and TV. These options fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at The information on this page only covers billing terms for traditional landline phone service.

Reading your bill

Your bill should include the name of your telephone service provider. If you receive services from more than one provider, each provider should list and subtotal its charges separately. Your phone bill must notify you of changes to your provider.

Your provider can charge you for a variety of services and offerings. The charges on your bill can typically be sorted into four categories: standard fees, providers’ fees, consumer opt-in charges, and taxes. Each category will be discussed in detail below.

1. Standard fees. It is common to see all of these charges listed on your landline phone bill. All landline consumers can expect to pay these fees. State or federal law may require these fees.

  • Monthly service – This is your fee for basic landline service. The amount charged should be the same on each bill unless your contract changes. Other fees, such as the ones listed below, may be included in your monthly service fee.
  • Subscriber Line Charge (SLC) – The SLC is also known as an access fee. The SLC allows your provider to maintain the local phone network, such as phone lines. Providers assess this fee for every phone line, meaning households with more than one phone line can be charged more. The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that this fee may not exceed $6.50 per line.
  • Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) – This fee helps cover the cost of providing cost-free transmission and translation phone services to consumers with hearing or speech disabilities.
  • Universal Service – This fee contributes to the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF provides phone service to rural areas and areas where the cost of phone service is expensive. USF programs help ensure Ohioans have access to affordable telecommunications services, like internet and basic phone services.
  • 911 emergency service – This pays for local emergency services, such as police, fire, and rescue systems.

2. Providers’ fees. These fees may be charged by your provider and may vary depending on your provider. They are charged in addition to your standard service fees.

  • Administrative – Providers assess a fee to cover the costs of providing service. For details on what this charge covers for your phone service, contact your provider.
  • Directory Assistance – Providers may assess this fee if you use 411 or directory assistance services.
  • Late fees – Providers may assess additional charges if you do not pay your bill on time.
  • Local number portability – This fee pays for phone number portability, or “porting.” Portability means you can keep the same phone number when you switch providers.
  • Minimum monthly feeSome providers assess this charge for long-distance calls. The minimum fee is the same month-to-month, even if you don’t make long-distance calls.
  • Operator-Assisted calls – Providers may assess this fee if you use operator services.

3. Consumer opt-in charges. These fees are charged to consumers that choose to use these services.

  • Expanded Area Service – Expanded area service expands your local calling area into a service area which would otherwise be long-distance. This flat fee is assessed for calls made in the expanded local area. Providers assess this fee instead of charging you long distance fees or charging consumers on a per-minute basis.  The size of the local calling area varies between providers.
  • Feature charges – Your provider can impose additional charges for optional features, including Caller ID, three-way calling, and call waiting. You can opt-out of these services if you do not want to pay for them.
  • Inside-wiring maintenance plans – These are utility line warranties. You will pay an additional charge if you enroll in your provider’s inside-wiring maintenance plan. These plans insure you against wiring problems, such as broken wires or loose jacks. Learn more about utility line warranties at

4. Taxes. All local phone bills are subject to a 3 percent federal tax in addition to state and local sales taxes. Your bill should clearly identify these taxes.

For questions regarding charges, including charges not defined here, contact your provider. Your bill should list a toll-free number you can call if you have questions or concerns regarding your billing charges.

If you understand the charges on your bill, you are better prepared to recognize scams. Some consumers have reported that scammers had switched their provider without their permission, also known as “slamming.” Unauthorized charges are sometimes added on to long, confusing bills, also known as “cramming.” If you don’t recognize the companies or charges on your bill, you may be paying for services you didn’t authorize. The OCC offers more information about slamming and cramming on our fact sheet, “How to Avoid Utility-Related Scams and Fraud.”

Paying your bill

Pay your bill as soon as possible to avoid missing a payment and paying late fees. Providers accept payment in a variety of ways. Some payment methods come with an additional charge, that are a cost of convenience. Ask if your method of payment charges an additional fee. You should also be aware that not all payment methods will post your payment in a timely manner. Before you pay, know if your chosen method will post your payment before the bill due date.

Your phone bill must identify the charges you need to pay to keep basic service. If you receive a disconnection notice or if your provider disconnects your service for nonpayment, contact your provider to see if they offer payment plans or assistance programs. Providers may also offer Lifeline programs, which provide financial assistance for phone service. Learn more at Contact your provider to learn more or apply for payment assistance.

Filing a complaint

Contact your provider if you have a question or want to dispute a charge. You can also file an informal complaint with the PUCO’s online complaint form. Use the PUCO’s complaint form on its website at You can also contact the PUCO with questions or complaints toll-free at 1-800-686-7826, or write to them:

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

180 E. Broad St., 7th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also accepts complaints regarding telecommunications issues at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or at Forms are also available to print on its website. Fax your complaint forms to 1-866-418-0232 or mail them to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division

45 L Street NE
Washington, DC 20554

You can also alert the FCC to an issue without filing a complaint by using the “Share Your Story” feature on the FCC’s website at

Always review your bill carefully every month. If you have questions regarding your bill, contact your provider. To help you learn more about your phone service, the OCC has more information on its website at, including information about telephone service options, payment assistance and avoiding unwanted calls.