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.
Spoofing calls – calls where your Caller ID displays a familiar-looking (or in some cases your own) phone number, but actually are scam calls – are becoming more and more prevalent across the country. Along with telemarketing calls, the Federal Communications Commission reports call spoofing as the most-received complaint. For more information please see the FCC’s YouTube video about Call Spoofing.
If there is a power outage during an emergency, your wireline phone, wireless device or VoIP service may not work unless you have a back-up power supply. If you suffer only an electrical power outage, you should still be able to use a traditional wireline (but not cordless) telephone, because electrical and telephone transmissions use different circuits or wires and telephone company facilities have back-up power available.
Local Phone Service Competition
Since the Vermont Public Utility Commission (Commission or PUC) 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 Consolidated Communications within FairPoint/Verizon's former service territory. However, not all licensed providers are offering service within Vermont. A list of CLECs that we are aware of that provide service in Vermont is available for consumers. The list is not all-inclusive and CAPI updates the list as more carriers come to our attention. Before signing up for service, consumers should thoroughly discuss all rates and terms with the company.
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 your phone number 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.
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).
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows consumers to 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 services such as DSL, cable modem, dial-up internet, wireless and satellite have been deregulated at the federal level by the FCC. What this means for consumers is that the state of Vermont cannot compel any company to offer broadband services, nor can the Vermont Public Utility Commission or the PSD regulate how these services are offered or what companies charge for them. The Telecommunications and Connectivity Division can assist consumers in finding out what broadband options are available in their area.