Information for Consumers - Telecommunications

Overview

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.

Call Spoofing

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.

Power Outages and Telecommunications

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. For more information, please see our Voice Services over Non-Powered Facilities webpage

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.

Telemarketing and Robocalls

Many consumers receive unwanted telemarketing and robocalls. 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.

Rural Call Completion

If you're having a problem trying to call someone and the call doesn't go through or you hear it ringing on your end but the called party does not; or if you find you are not receiving calls from parties that have been trying to reach you; or the call completes but drops shortly after being answered by the called party, you're experiencing a rural call completion issue. The issue can occur whether making local or long-distance calls; from or to landline or wireless phone customers; or using VoIP phone technology.  This problem is nationwide, and is one of the most-reported complaints received by the FCC. For more information, or to register a rural call completion complaint, please see the FCC's Rural Call Completion webpage

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.

Cellular or Wireless

Public Utility Commission rules do not cover cellular or wireless phone services. If a consumer has not been able to resolve a complaint directly with his or her cellular 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 telephone calls to be transmitted over an Internet connection.  Many services employ VoIP technology to allow consumers to make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (analog) phone line.  The extent of the jurisdiction of the Vermont Public Utility Commission over services that employ VoIP technology is not settled.  If you are having a problem with a VoIP service provider that you cannot resolve with the company on your own, you can contact the 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 such as fiber optic, 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 Department regulate how these services are offered or what companies charge for them. The Consumer Affairs and Public Information Division can assist consumers in finding out what broadband options are available in their area.