Telecommunications Consumer Information

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Competition and technological changes have substantially altered how voice service is provided to consumers. Package plans that include landline telephone and DSL, the increased use of Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and cable modem voice services, and the predominance of cell phones contribute to a more complex world of consumer protection within the telecommunications industry.   

 

Local Phone Service Competition

Since the Vermont Public Service Board (Board or PSB) opened up Vermont for local telephone service competition, a large number of competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) have applied for and received authorization to provide service. At this time, CLEC service is available only within the territory currently served by FairPoint Communications within Verizon's former service territory. A Complete List of Licensed Providers is posted on the Board's website. However, not all licensed providers are offering service within Vermont. Please check with the Consumer Affairs & Public Information (CAPI) Division for a list of CLECs that we're aware of that provide service in Vermont. The list is not all-inclusive and CAPI updates the list as more carriers come to our attention.

 

Do Not Call

Many consumers receive unwanted telemarketing calls. There are some things you can do to protect yourself against such calls. First, register with the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The DNC Registry is where you can register your landline and/or cell phone number to limit the types and number of calls you receive. Telemarketers covered by the DNC rules have up to 31 days from the date you register to stop calling. You can register by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you wish to register, or by Registering Online. If you continue to receive calls from telemarketers 31 days after registering, or you are getting robocalls (regardless of whether you registered), you can file a complaint with the FTC online or at 1-888-382-1222.

 

Local Number Portability

Consumers have the right to switch telephone providers and keep their same phone number if they move to a new location (the right to keep the same phone number is limited to the same calling area as the current phone number). The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) local number portability regulations apply to landline, wireless, and Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers. For more information about local number portability, please see the FCC's Webpage on Portability

 

Wireless

Board rules do not cover wireless services. If a consumer has not been able to resolve a complaint directly with his or her wireless provider, and if CAPI has not been able to reach an informal resolution favorable to the consumer, he or she can can File a Complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Recently, the FCC has proposed rules regarding "bill shock" for wireless consumers to avoid the unexpected charges incurred when they exceed the limits on their voice and data plans. The FCC has launched a website to provide information to consumers about this issue.

 

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows consumers to make make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. As is the case with wireless carriers and cable modem service, VoIP services are not regulated by the Board. However, if you are having a problem with a VoIP service provider that you cannot resolve with the company on your own, you can contact Consumer Affairs & Public Information (CAPI) Division for assistance at an informal level. If CAPI is not able to help, you can File a Complaint with the FCC.

 

Broadband

Broadband services (DSL, cable modem, dial-up internet, wireless, satellite, etc.) have been deregulated at the federal level by the FCC, which considers broadband services to be inter-state information services and not telecommunications services that would otherwise be regulated by the state public utility commissions such as the Board and the Vermont Public Service Department (PSD).

What this means for consumers is that the State of Vermont cannot compel any company to offer broadband services, nor can the Board or the PSD regulate how these services are offered or what companies charge for them.

Many consumers live in an area that has either no or unreliable broadband service. Consumer Affairs & Public Information (CAPI) Division can sometimes assist in finding out what providers are offering service in a consumer's area but cannot require any company to do so. Consumers can also enter their address into the broadbandvt.org website to find out which companies are currently, or will be, offering broadband service to their census block.