Thursday, June 15, 2006

cheaper long distance

My dsl drama caused me to take a closer look at my phone bill. I don’t make many calls, but I am always surprised at how large the charges are. Yes, I over pay for caller id, but more shocking are all the taxes, fees and plan costs associated with AT&T long distance.

Last month, AT&T charged me $16.63 for 60 minutes total of long distance calls. The breakdown is as follows:

2-02 AT&T One Rate (R) Weekends Plan 4.95
2-03 Tax: Fed .41
2-04 CHCF-A, CHCF-B .16
2-05 CA Relay Service and Comm. Devices Funds Surcharge .02
2-06 Pub Util Comm Fee .01
2-07 California Teleconnect Fund Surcharge .01
2-08 Univ Lifeline Tele Serv Sur .10
2-09 Utility Users Tax .24
2-10 California 9-1-1 Surcharge .05
2-11 Universal Connectivity Charge .70

2-12 Carrier cost recovery fee 1.49
2-13 Bill Statement Fee 2.49

and then $6.00 for 60 minutes of calls at the night rate!

Ten cents a minute after paying a $4.95 plan fee is reason enough to switch, but it turns out that many of those extra charges are just that, extra charges AT&T chooses to assess. They are not mandated. The carrier cost recovery fee is a great example, but most obnoxious is the $2.49 bill statement fee – and I don’t even get a paper bill!

So, with more rage as motivation, I went to phonedog to find cheaper long distance. After a little research using phonedogs service comparison tool, I settled on the Pioneer 2.7 cent plan. The appealing features are:

No monthly minimum
No plan fee
No bill statement fee

when you pay your bill by credit card, and 2.7 cent a minute rates 24 hours a day. In-state calls are even cheaper at 2.6 cents a minute. There is a 10.7% USF tax (it is hard to get around Federal taxes), but had Pioneer been my carrier last month my bill would have been 85% less.

You can sign up online, and the switch takes about 5 days to complete. I can’t yet vouch for Pioneer’s line quality or customer service (I’ve only had the sevice since Monday), but I am delighted by the reduction in unnecessary expenses. A quick survey at dinner suggests that many of you might have AT&T long distance plans you are paying too much for for but not using. If so, check out phonedog and dial in some savings.

8/31 update: Pioneer is working out great, and I am excited to learn that we will all be getting a refund on our 2006 Federal tax returns for long distance excise taxes paid. The IRS just announced the program today


At 5:13 AM, Anonymous bpm1200 said...

Did your research show how their rates compare to something like SkypeOut or any VoIP-to-Phone services (and assuming you'll never need to call 911)?

At 9:09 AM, Blogger paul said...

Great point. I'm a big Skype fan, and I have a number of friends who have ditched their landlines. They either just use their cell phones or have gone the VOIP route. Skype is the cheapest VOIP carrier, but with Vonage and Packet8 you can take advantage of number portability.

For me, I am not quite ready to "cut the cord" but I did want to make sure that if I made 1 or 2 long distance calls I paid pennies instead of $$$. The best part about Pioneer is the low fee structure.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

I switched to Vonage 18 months ago and got to keep my number. Best of all my calls are now free to 5 European countries (in addition to US and Canada which were always free). I am pretty happy with the service and greatly cut down my bills. Since I use cable and no DSL I do not need to be a SBC/ATT customer anymore.

At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

I've used Powernet Global for 4-5 years as a discount provider and have been happy with their service. Don't know exact rate but it was one of lowest when we signed up.



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