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Touch-tone? I'd buy that for a dollar...

originally 2/15/01

I'm writing today because I'm a bit miffed about paying a dollar for touchtone service. Sure, a dollar doesn't buy much, but according to those fine folks at the TV phone company, you can make calls for 20 minutes for just $.99. If I can make a whole 20 minute call, why do I have to pay a good old greenback for TOUCHTONE service?

Long before the days of cable modems and DSL lines, I was using ISDN. I got an ISDN line in 1996 when I worked for a now-defunct startup. My next employer kept paying for it, and when I moved into my current digs, I got the line moved. Well, lo and behold, cable modem service came to my neighborhood, and it rocks. It's faster than my work access most days.

So, I decided it was time to dump the ISDN line. I called my friendly neighborhood RBOC and asked them downsize my ISDN to a plain old telephone line. How much could it possibly cost? How much, indeed. Have you looked at your phone bill lately?

It's $4.95 a month for a phone, and 20 "message units." These are blocks of time up to 5 minutes (if you make a 20 second call, its' still a message unit. Or, $6.95 for unlimited local calling a month (quite a bargain). And, if you act now, we'll throw in some steak knives....

Here are some notes I took while on the phone:

  • $.43 universal access tax (so others can get emergency service).
  • $.23 local number portability (of course this is only theoretical - if you move you can't really take your number with you - just try it.) The phone companies are accruing money to buy the equipment they need. As if they can't already do this - what's caller ID if not a way to track numbers?
  • $6.20 FCC charges (w/.65 credit) - not explained
  • regional toll calls - .08 /min from your friendly phone co.
And don't forget the $1 for touchtone. Grand total:

$14.16 /month

But wait. How much would you pay now? More explaination about what this really means to me was on the web, but not in a very friendly manner.

I seem to remember a conversation with my very S.M.A.R.T friend, David Isenberg, who explained that touchtone actually SAVES the phone company money. After all, David "Catalyzed development of touch-tone detector more than two orders of magnitude more accurate than existing detectors (1991), now used in two AT&T (now Lucent) products" so who am I to argue with him?

It makes sense - do they really want to manage infrastructure for rotary dial anymore? Verizon's site notes they have 95 million access lines. Let's see, at $1 a touchtone line service, that's about $1,140,000,000 a year. Does it really cost that much to run touchtone equipment?

At least send the steak knives.

Update - The fine folks at Verizon promised me a disconnect date, then missed it by 5 days. But they promised I'd be billed for the lower line cost starting the day I placed my order. Annoyning, but let's see if they come through.

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Last update: 8/23/2002; 9:35:19 PM.