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Good Call For Rates
January 10, 2005
Bangornews. Staff - Monday, January 10, 2005 - Bangor Daily News — Twice a year, Maine's viligant public advocate, Steve Ward, and his Augusta staff put out the Ratewatcher Telecom to keep you up to date on telephone charge increases and advise you how to fight back.
The January guide, just out has some new helpful features. Shopping Shortcuts asks, "What type of customer are you?" For instance, if you make few toll calls (fewer than 800 minutes per month), live in Verizon territory and are not interested in any optional features, the advice is: "Consider switching long-distance to Touchtone or Pioneer. Keep Verizon for local service only."
Comparative rates and fees appear elsewhere in the guide. For a customer in Verizon territory who also uses fewer than 800 toll minutes a month but wants Caller ID, Call Waiting or Call Forwarding, the advice is: "Consider switching local and long-distance service to USA Telephone or Homefield."
The tables report rates and fees for the various companies, but this new page of of shortcuts is handy for people who may find the table confusing. Other features give information on different "wireless" or cellphone services and the pros and cons of phone cards and using the Internet phone scams." By thoughtlessly clicking on a pop-up and or contest or game, you may later get a phone bill for an expensive but fictional call to Tuvalu, Guinea-Bissau or Liechtenstein.
The free Ratewatcher Telecom Guide already has 40,000 subscribers. To get it, cell 1-207-287-2445. The Public Advocate's telecom team also conducts occasional free advice clinics. Consumers can take in their phone bills and learn how to improve their telephone, cellphone and Internet service. One of the clinics was held last September at the Bangor City Hall. The next one will be March 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Auburn Mall. The team suggests checking its Web site - www. maine.gov/meopa - for other future events. It invites groups to arrange for similar meetings in their own communities.
How does the Public Advocate Office get away with handing out such tough advice, which can mean loss of customers and income for communication companies? One of the attorneys there acknowledges that there are people at Verizon who are "not very happy about what we do." But he says the office realized from the start that it had to stick to facts and always be accurate. He says so far the office has had no trouble.
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