by David Sisler

I have a phone line in my office which is used for the ministry I share, supporting orphans in Russia. In order to secure the least expensive rate, I opted for a plan which gives a limited number of calls each month, and in more than two years of using the plan, I have exceeded the allowable number only once.

When I pay the bill, I scan down the list of items to see if the total calls allowed is under budget. This month I paid attention to the other items I am paying.

The "Message Rate Service Expanded Local Service Residential Line" charge is $8.08 what I pay for the service I use, unless I exceed the limit of "free" calls.

Well, then, why did I pay $18.38 this month?

Answer: I am getting nothing for something.

I spend $10.30 before I ever pick up the phone. I spend $10.30 if I never make a phone call.

Here is the breakdown:

Federal Universal Service Charge 39 cents.

FCC Local Number Portability Line Charge 35 cents.

FCC Charge for Network Access for Additional Line $6.95.

Emergency 911 charged $1.50

Telecommunications Relay Service Fund five cents.

Federal Tax 47 cents.

State/local Tax 57 cents.

You did the math. You know that the total is two cents short of $10.30. The two copperheads were assessed because last month for reasons totally unexplainable I paid the "current regulated charges" instead of the "total amount due."

I didn't argue. I ponied up the two cents and sent off the check. It was, obviously, my fault, but then these are the same ninnies who tried to install DSL service for my computer, failed, and charged me fifty or sixty bucks a month for four months for something I never had, after three phone calls (and being on hold for an hour and a half) cancelled the debt, and then two months later started billing me again and kept it up until the arrears totaled $500. My attorney wrote three letters to the Yummies Up On Carpet Corridor which were totally ignored, and the matter was only settled after appealing to a good old fashion dose of "blat" (the Russian word for "it's not what you know, but who you know" my mouth-piece knew someone high up the ladder at Bell South). I think I will send them an extra two cents just to keep them off my back.

After realizing I am paying an amount equal to more than double my basic service fee to the phone company, and receiving nothing in return, I checked a few other utility bills.

How about everyone's favorite: the gas bill? And how much money have you saved since deregulation? Sorry, I didn't mean to get you all riled up.

Scana Energy gets a check this month for $116.39 (down from last month's $314.26). I used 82 CCF, but when you multiply that by 1.05200 (the BTU factor), I was billed for 86 therms. Those little therms cost $90.21. I also paid $26.70 in Atlanta Gas Light pass through and meter reading charges, $8.53 in taxes, and, my favorite on this bill, a customer service charge of $4.95. I thought customer service meant they did something for me, not the other way around. Oh well. At least there was a GA PSC ordered credit of 14 bucks. Hooray!

The Alltel bill is calculated to be totally unintelligible. If the aliens in the movie Independence Day had been using the Alltel system for encoding, Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, and Bill Pullman would never have saved Earth. If it were not for, Laura Wilkes Smiley, the best customer service representative ever, I would long ago have cancelled the service and resorted to tin cans and a string. Even so, I am hit for Network Surcharges and Federal USF Charges. One of those, I think, is my contribution to their version of a telephone pole.

Along with my mortgage payment, I send the folks at Wells Fargo Home Mortgages, Inc., $21.04 a month for private mortgage insurance. All you home owners out there know that PMI is you paying so someone else will get paid if you default on your loan. Best scheme since the pyramids became retail devices!

Back to the phone bills. I have two lines in my house, and I forgot to mention that BellSouth charges $4.35 for "FCC charge for network access" on the main line, and a second universal service charge, and a second local number portability line charge, and a second 911 charge, and a second telecommunications relay service fund. Throw in the fact that we did a Star 69 last month and have call waiting, and $13.04 of the current amount due is paying something for nothing.

I have Sprint long distance service and while those good folks didn't get much from me this month because I only made three long distance calls lasting a total of ten minutes, they still get a in-state access recovery fee, a carrier universal service charge, property tax allocation, and federal excise tax which adds up to $1.13.

Now, check my arithmetic, but I think that adds up to $89.03 for things I have never used. $89.03 in getting nothing for something. If that holds constant for 12 months, I will spend $1068.36 for nothing.

On the other hand, I have received eternal life in Jesus Christ, and that, I did not pay for.


Now by arrangement with, you can help the work of MIR Children's Foundation. Click on the logo below, and you will be redirected to their site. MIR will receive a portion of what you spend. It will be used to assist our work with orphans in Russia and Moldova.

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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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