Frequently Asked Questions

The price of telephone service has traditionally been based on the idea that the more people you can reach on a local basis, that is without paying long distance charges, the more valuable the service. Accordingly, since telephone customers in more rural areas of the Commonwealth can generally reach fewer people on a local basis, the price for rural service is lower than those areas with more expansive “free” calling areas. For example, in some areas of Virginia, telephone customers can call a few thousand numbers locally, whereas, in other areas, like northern Virginia, customers can reach over a million telephone customers without incurring long distance charges.
Historical precedent as well as market necessity helped to define regulated services. Prior to 1984, telephone services were generally regulated by two authorities; the Federal Communications Commission and the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Regulated services include the basic local dial tone line, call waiting and caller ID. Examples of competitive, or non rate-regulated, services include long distance, voice mail, Internet and paging.
Easements and rights-of-way give telephone utilities access to a customer’s property. Easements and rights-of-way are normally negotiated between property owners (or developers) and telephone utilities when service is first installed in the area. The parameters of the rights-of-way should be recorded at your local courthouse, and should be indicated on surveyor mappings of your property. Generally, telephone companies cannot place lines or equipment outside of the recorded easements without the permission of the current property owner.
Virginia law grants the power of eminent domain to public service and certain limited liability companies pursuant to Section 56.49 of the Code of Virginia.
Local telephone companies impose a charge to recover the programming costs associated with making a change to a customer’s long distance carrier selection. Frequently, long distance carriers may reimburse this charge as an incentive to gain new customers. This charge is called the presubscribed interexchange carrier-change charge (PIC-change charge), and was established in 1983 as part of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) efforts to open the interstate long distance market to competition. In 1984, the FCC established a $5 maximum which telephone companies are allowed to levy for PIC-change charges.
This charge is to recover the cost of the permanent connections between the customer and the public long distance network, whether or not a customer makes long distance calls. This charge was authorized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the mid-1980s and is one reason that interstate long distance calls are generally less expensive than in-state long distance calls.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 required that billing and collection services be rendered by the local telephone company through negotiated billing arrangements. Many long distance companies have subsequently created their own billing systems and therefore no longer rely on the local telephone company to bill on their behalf.
Rates for operator assisted calls, whether automated or through a live operator, have risen dramatically over the last several years. In fact, charges of $5 to upwards of $30 for calls lasting a few minutes are not unusual. If you are unsure of the cost of making an operator assisted call, especially from a pay telephone, ask the operator for a rate quote prior to completing the call. One option is to use a prepaid calling card, instead of an operator. Some prepaid calling cards have rates of a few pennies per minute. A prepaid calling card is almost certain to save you money if used at a pay telephone instead of placing an operator-assisted call.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 gave the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) jurisdiction over the telephone numbering plan in the United States. However, the FCC delegated this authority to state regulatory commissions to resolve matters involving implementing new area codes. The Virginia State Corporation Commission has been very active in this area.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission some years ago allowed advance billing to ensure that utility companies had the required amount of cash for working capital. Without it, local rates would have been higher. Today, even with a competitive environment, the practice of advanced billing continues and is governed by tariff.
There is nothing that prohibits a property owner or developer from entering into a contract with a specific telecommunications provider. Other providers may not be denied access to the development or apartment complex; however, the telecommunications provider itself may choose not to offer service based on its costs to provide the service. Before renting or buying, you should first check with your apartment owner or developer to see if access to all telephone companies is allowed.
Technically speaking, the line is drawn at the network interface device (NID). The NID is usually a gray or beige box outside your home or apartment. The NID should provide access for you to plug in a telephone to see if service to your house is working. If the telephone works from the NID but not from within your house, it usually means the problem is in your inside wire.
Inside wire maintenance is the responsibility of the customer. You can also choose among the various monthly inside wire maintenance plans offered by telephone service providers. Inside wire problems are generally rare, so even if you don't have an inside wire maintenance plan, you can hire the telephone service provider, hire another contractor, or repair it yourself if you have a problem. If you choose not to have an inside wire maintenance plan and use the telephone provider or a contractor you can generally expect to pay for time and materials. If you are establishing new service or changing providers, and plan to subscribe to an inside wire maintenance plan, ask when the plan takes effect.
You could start by asking the calling party to place you on a “Do-Not-Call” list. Other cost-free suggestions are to utilize the assistance of the National Do-Not-Call Registry made available by a joint effort of the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. (This registry is accessible via the web at You may also register by phone by calling from the phone number you wish to register to (888) 382-1222. Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General provides additional information on your rights regarding telemarketing calls.

There are other options that include a cost. These vary from subscribing to non-published or non-list service from your local phone company to the purchase of specific equipment or services that automatically block unwanted calls. Should you wish to obtain further information regarding the rules established for telemarketers, contact the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission.