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Telecom and The Consumer | Print |

The large communications companies often target individual consumers to increase profit by offering discounts to use services like broadband Internet, long distance or wireless service.

They usually offer these discounts while either requiring or assuming that the consumer will utilize the service during "off-peak" times, or in limited amounts, when their larger business users are not using the carrier's network.

For example, they make a profit by offering "free nights and weekends" to wireless customers or discount residential long distance, knowing that most of their network, which was already paid for that day by the business users, would be underutilized during those times.

That being said, you may have realized that things aren't always as they appear. There are many programs borne of marketing genius, geared to manipulate the information given to consumers in such a way that the deal appears better than it is.

Usually, the only value for consumers is if the individual really understands how to avoid the plan's potential pitfalls and is able to exploit the plan's benefits.

This may not be the best platform to explain potential shortcomings of every advertised program. However, here is a brief description of common consumer misunderstandings and carrier marketing tactics in the following section we like to call
Telecom Trickery:

Dialing-Around-For-Dollars (10-10 Numbers):
We've all seen the commercials. Due to lawsuits, they are more forthcoming with the "catches" to their programs now, but the math still indicates there are better options for consumers.

For example, if a carrier claims that you can use up to 20 minutes for 99 cents, and "x" cents per minute thereafter, that's great until you realize you just spent $1 to leave a 30 second message on someone's machine. So-called "dial-around" or "10-10 numbers" typically use this tactic.

Some of the newer dial-around services claim a lesser rate of 3 cents per minute with a 39 cent connect fee. Well, 3 cents x 20 minutes equals 60 cents. Add 60 cents to the 39 cent connect fee and we're amazingly at the 20 minutes for 99 cents figure again. This is no accident. The two most advertised 10-10 numbers are run by the same telecom carrier.

For simple savings, we would recommend siging up for a rate plan that offers aggressive rates across the board. For example, some of our plans are offered as low as 3.45 cents with no fees for most customers.

We also offer the most competitive rates for calling card calls. Instead of using a dial-around service, you could buy a prepaid phone card and pay as little as 1 or 2 cents per minute for domestic U.S. calls, and get additional savings calling internationally when compared to other services.

Flat-Rate Foolery:
Briefly explained, many of the so called "flat rate" programs rely upon users underutilizing services, thus increasing profit for the carriers. Unfortunately, this is not entirely clear to many users. The carrier knows most of the consumers that sign up for these programs won't use as much service as they paid for. Most of these programs guarantee the carrier more profit, rather than guarantee the consumer they won't pay too much.

If they did the math, most consumers would see that if they multiplied their usage by an aggressive rate, they are better off getting the aggressive rate for usage, rather than the so-called "flat rate." There are exceptions, of course. We just recommend reading the fine print.

Carrier Fee Frenzy:
Many carriers are getting very creative with their fees. There are some fees and taxes every carrier must charge. However, some fees and taxes are not mandatory, and some allow the carrier a certain percentage of markup to "cover the carrier's cost." Many carriers take advantage of this allowance and inflate the fees, thereby increasing their profit while the costs they are "covering" were covered long ago.

Be very careful about signing up for services, and read the fine print. Check your bills periodically and don't be afraid to question what the fees are for. Try to avoid services that charge more than a few dollars just to have the service. If you're still paying a long distance company $5.00 - $10.00 a month for the priviledge of using their service, just think of how many HOURS of talk time you are losing!

Another trap: Some programs out there don't charge any fees -- we've found programs like this, but many of them we tested don't have good rates per minute, either on the state-to-state calling side of the program, or for the in-state calling side of the same program. Either way, the program gets that extra money out of your pocket!

Therefore, we settled on some providers that offers no additional fees, outside of the required government fees and taxes, for customers that use $20 or more per month in combined usage. Then we have other low cost options for people who use less than $20 per month, with very low fees, if any. Most plans won't cost you more than a couple dollars per month in fees, even if you don't use much long distance, they won't penalize you.

Don't forget about quality and service. What good is a low rate and reduced fees if the quality of service is poor, or they offer bad customer support? Our providers use some of the largest networks in the country and provides excellent customer service. You actually talk to real people when you call, plus they offer online support.

Big Billing Increments:
Do you realize that most carriers charge you for a full minute of long distance, even when you use only a fraction of a minute?

That's right, if you look at your bill and see your call times rounded off to even, full minute increments, this indicates you are being billed for full minutes, regardless of actual usage. What's the big deal? Not much if you spent 1 minute, 56 seconds on the phone, but what if you spent 18 seconds leaving a message, or 1 minute, 6 seconds saying a quick hello? That unused time adds up quickly. Now, do those minutes YOU'VE PAID FOR rollover?!

Many of our providers offer residential customers 6 second billing, meaning, if you use 30 seconds on one call and 1 minute, 6 seconds on a second call with our service, you would be billed for only 30 seconds or 66 seconds respectively, whereas most providers would charge you an entire minute for the first call, and 2 full minutes for the second call. Finally, you can now pay only for the time you actually talk!

Thank you for visiting our Telecommunications & The Consumer Guide. These are just some of the main items we feel consumers should be aware of. You'll notice we ask our partners to be up-front in providing all rate and fee information.

To ensure our clients can make informed decisions while investigating the services we provide, we present this information as a guide to increase comprehension of any fees our partners may charge. We believe that by comparison, we offer some of the most competitive and easy-to-use services around.

See for yourself at our switched long distance portal:


For calling cards, use our prepaid phone card portal:


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Get your next long distance service provider from BMG Communications!

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