- What can I do to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls?
To prevent unwanted telemarketing calls, there are two Do-Not-Call Lists you can join. One is maintained by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and applies to consumer merchandise telemarketers. The United States Government Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains the other. We suggest you enter your name on both Do Not Call Lists.
Direct Marketing Association Do Not Call List.
To add your name and number to the Direct Marketing Association Do-Not-Call List, write to:
Telephone Preference Center
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 1559
Carmel, NY 10512
Federal Trade Commission Do Not Call List
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also created a Do-Not-Call List, which makes it easier for you to stop getting telemarketing calls. You can register online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222, TTY 1-866-290-4236, from the telephone number you wish to register. Registration is free.
- What Low Income Assistance Programs are available?
Low Income Assistance Programs
Financial assistance may be available to help qualified low-income consumers with their electric, gas, telephone or water bills. Special payment plans or assistance may be also available through your electric distribution utility and local telephone provider. Funding for some State and Federal programs has been augmented through the CARES Act due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and may only be available for a limited time.
Statewide Electric Low-Income Assistance Plan (LIAP)
The MPUC and the Maine State Housing Authority administer a statewide Low-Income Assistance Program (LIAP), which disburses more than $7 million annually to assist qualified low-income customers with their electric bills. Qualifying customers receive a credit on their electric bill that is based on their income and electricity usage. Eligibility to participate in the LIAP is based on a customer's eligibility for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Customers can apply for the LIAP either through their local Community Action Agency or their utility. A full list of CAP agencies can be found here: https://www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/energy/liheap-agency-contacts
Arrearage Management Program (AMP)
Central Maine Power Co. and Versant Power each operate an AMP that assists eligible low-income residential customers who are in arrears on their electricity bills. Customers who are eligible for LIHEAP and have an arrearage of $500 or more that is at least 90 days old are eligible to participate in the program. Participating customers will have 1/12 of their arrearage amount, up to a maximum of $300, forgiven every month that they pay their current bill on time. To enroll in an AMP, customers should contact either their local Community Action Agency or their utility.
Heat Pump Program
Maine State Housings heat pump program pays for the cost and installation of a heat pump for eligible Maine homeowners. Heat pumps are a popular and efficient tool to help heat homes in cold climates and can help save on heating costs.
Telephone-Link-Up and Lifeline Programs
The Link-Up Program provides qualifying low-income households reduced installation costs for new service hook-ups. The Lifeline program provides qualifying households with a significant credit for the basic service portion of local telephone bills or internet broadband service. These programs together help Maine lead the nation in percentage of its households with local telephone and internet broadband service. Some local phone and internet broadband companies offer these programs, others, do not. For more information on these programs, or if you think that you might qualify, contact your local telecommunications company or your local Community Action Agency. If you still have questions after speaking with these groups, contact the Commissions Consumer Assistance and Safety Division at 1-800-452-4699.
Customers of Northern Utilities, Inc. d/b/a Unitil, Bangor Gas and Maine Natural Gas receiving service under the residential heating and non-heating rates may be eligible to receive a 30% discount on their delivery and gas supply rates. The discount will apply to all customers identified by the Maine State Housing Authority as eligible for LIHEAP. Once enrolled, customers will receive the discount for 12 consecutive months.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), administered by the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA), provides assistance to low income homeowners and renters to help pay heating costs. Eleven Community Action Programs distribute the funds throughout Maine. The program is not intended to pay for all heating costs, but to assist in paying the heating bills. LIHEAP assists those who heat with oil, propane, natural gas, electricity and other sources. Customers can apply for the LIHEAP through their local Community Action Agency. A full list of CAP agencies can be found here: https://www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/energy/liheap-agency-contacts
The energy crisis intervention program (ECIP), part of LIHEAP, also administered by MSHA and distributed through CAPS assists customers who are in imminent danger of disconnection. Customers must have an active disconnection notice to qualify.
Maine State Housings Weatherization Program provides grants to low-income homeowners and renters to reduce energy costs by improving home energy efficiency. Maine Housing offers this program to consumers through Community Action Program agencies, who screen people for eligibility as part of the HEAP application process.
General Assistance (GA)
You may qualify for GA if you dont have the income or resources to meet basic needs for you and your family. GA can help with fuel and utilities, among other things. You can apply in person at your local municipal office. If you are unable to reach your local GA office or you have questions or concerns, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-442-6003.
For those who have exhausted all resources and need assistance with utility bills, 211 Maine may be able to help find local resources. 211 Maine is a free, confidential resource that helps connect people in Maine to needed health and human services. On a limited basis, through the Keep ME Warm Fund, 211 Maine is able to provide financial assistance to low income families in emergencies.
- Common questions about shopping for Local Telephone Service
Do I have to choose a new local service provider?
No. If you do, though, you may be able to save money, have more options or get better services.
What exactly am I choosing?
You are choosing the provider that provides your basic local service. Basic local service allows you to make local calls. Your local provider may also provide your in-state toll or state-to-state long-distance service if you choose them for those services. Some provide these other services, some may not.
What is basic local service?
Basic local service includes dial tone and touch-tone service, and a local calling plan for making and receiving telephone calls in your local area. Basic local service also includes the federal line cost charge, the federal and state universal service fund surcharges, the E911 services surcharge, and the school and library fund surcharge.
Do local service providers have to offer me service?
All local service providers do not have to offer you service. Many of these providers, however, are required to make reasonable efforts to help you get and keep your local phone service, because they receive special federal funding to help as many customers as possible keep local service. These providers pass this funding along to qualifying low-income consumers by offering special discounts – known as the Link-Up and Lifeline discounts -- to help them get and stay connected. If you think you qualify for these discounts, ask your local service provider, or any providers you are considering, if they offer Link-Up and Lifeline discounts.
Are all local service plans the same, except for the cost?
No. Some may have different local service areas, or may not offer access to enhanced 911 services.
May I keep my telephone number if I change my local service provider?
Yes, in most cases, if you are staying in the same location. (You may also keep your local directory listing.)
- What is In-state Toll Service?
In-state toll service includes calling plans for calls that you make within Maine but outside your local calling area.
- Calling State-to-State and Internationally
The Commission does not regulate state-to-state (“inter-state”) or international calling services nor do we generally accept complaints about these services. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates these services.
The Commission however, does take complaints against all service providers (including those providing state-to-state toll services) who “slam” a customer’s phone service, i.e., who change the service provider for a customer without the customer’s authorization.
- What is Basic Local Service?
Basic local service includes dial tone and touch-tone services and a local calling plan for making and receiving telephone calls in your local area. Basic local service also includes fees such as the federal line cost charge, the federal and state universal service fund surcharges, the E911 services surcharge, and the school and library fund surcharge.
Your local calling area is listed in the front of your telephone directory. Many customers have the option of choosing either "premium" or "economy" local service which is based on the size of your local calling area. Premium local calling allows customers to place unlimited local calls to all contiguous exchanges for a flat monthly rate. The economy option allows unlimited local calling to a smaller local area at a lower monthly rate. If you choose economy service, calls made to numbers outside the economy area but within the premium area are charged at 5¢ per minute.
If your local phone service is provided by a competitive carrier rather than the traditional local telephone company in your area (such as Verizon, TDS, etc.), your local calling areas may be different than what is shown in the telephone directory.
- How do I shop for Telephone Services?
- Find out which local service providers serve your area by watching for their advertisements. You can also figure out which providers are registered to serve in Maine by looking at the PUC’s lists of registered local and in-state toll telephone service providers, or find out which ones are offering the best deals or doing the most business in Maine by checking out the Maine Public Advocate’s Ratewatcher Telecom Guide. Then contact the ones you believe are serving your area.
- Review your local calling patterns to determine the average length and number of local and long-distance calls you make in a month. Different service providers may offer different local calling areas, affecting which calls are toll calls.
- Make a list of the optional services you want to keep.
- Compare rates and service plans of your current provider with the plans of other providers. For a comparison of the rates of many providers, check out the Maine Public Advocate’s Ratewatcher Telecom Guide or call us for a copy.
- If you are a low-income customer, ask your current and preferred local service providers if you are eligible for any assistance programs such as Link-Up or Lifeline. Find out the total cost for monthly basic service and connection charges after any assistance credits are applied to your bill. Not all companies offer these credits.
- If you are a business customer, you may find discounts available, depending on how many lines you have, how much you and your employees use the phone, and whether you buy bundled service.
- Decide which plan best fits your calling patterns and needs. While selecting a local service provider, you may also want to compare in-state toll and interstate long-distance plans.
- Notify the new provider that you want to sign up for its services.
- Your new provider will notify you with a date when service will start.
- What are Optional Services?
Optional services are those like call waiting, caller ID and 3-way calling that are offered by local service providers and sometimes other companies. Charges for services like these are not a part of your basic local service.
- What can I do to prevent unauthorized service charges?
Preventing Unauthorized Service Charges
There are several things you can do to avoid being a victim of cramming (the unauthorized addition of charges for goods or services on your telephone bill) and slamming (the unauthorized switching of a customer from one carrier to another).
- Review your telephone bill each month to look for unusual charges, new services you did not order, or new carriers you did not authorize.
- Read the fine print on promotions you receive in the mail (or elsewhere) before agreeing to participate – regardless of whether the promotion is for a telephone service or some other kind of service or product.
- Ask telemarketers to send you the information in writing before you agree to anything.
Steps to Take If You Are a Victim of Cramming or Slamming:
- Contact your local service provider. Register your complaint. Ask to be reconnected to your chosen provider or have any unauthorized charges removed from your bill.
- Contact the provider that you were switched to or that placed unordered service s on your bill.
- File a complaint with the Commission’s Consumer Assistance Division by using our on-line complaint form or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-452-4699.
- Is there Telephone Competition in Maine?
In the past, telephone services were considered a monopoly service and there was only one provider for this service – AT&T. In the 1980s, however, as a result of tremendous technological advances in the telecommunications industry, regulatory changes were made to bring competition in the provision of state-to-state toll telephone services. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 encouraged competition in the provision of both local and in-state toll services to provide for better service at lower prices. Now many Maine consumers may pick the companies that provide their local, toll, or other telephone services at prices that best fit their needs.