Local Calling Options

There are ways to adapt your telephone services to meet your specific calling needs.

Here are just a few options to consider:

Long distance calling packages 

Long-distance rates, especially for in-state long-distance calls, have declined dramatically in recent years. If high long distance bills are a problem, you can save by getting a better long-distance deal. As a benchmark, you should pay no more than 10 cents a minute for most calls and many companies offer rates that are quite a bit lower.

Work with your local telephone company 

Your phone company may be willing to set up local calling services to better meet your requirements. For instance, it may offer an optional local calling plan that costs more per month, but provides a larger toll-free calling zone. If you are thinking of filing a complaint with the UTC about your local calling area, you will have to document in writing that your local telephone company has refused to voluntarily provide a reasonable solution to your calling needs.

Alternative providers 

Wireless companies offer a wide variety of calling packages, including packages with free long distance or large local calling areas. Wireless service might not be economical as a replacement to your traditional phone service. However, if you are considering adding a second line or acquiring a mobile phone for other reasons, look at whether wireless telephone service would help to meet your calling needs.

Site specific solutions

Determine where you are making most of your long-distance calls. If it is to a particular business or organization, you might encourage them to acquire a toll-free line. Another solution is a foreign exchange line which will connect your phone into a neighboring calling area.

Why expanding local calling areas is the last option

Larger local calling areas make it harder for customers to benefit from competition. Competition drives down prices for toll calls, wireless phone service and other alternatives. Those savings benefit customers directly. In contrast, when calling areas are expanded, the local telephone company usually replaces the lost toll income by raising the rate of your local phone service--where you likely do not experience the benefits of competition. Paying more for a monopoly phone service in order to pay less for long-distance which is competitively priced is only an option in the most exceptional circumstances.

Reviewing your local calling area

If you still think your community should have a larger local calling area. Conduct a review. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your children’s schools within your local calling area?
  • Are your most significant city or town services within your local calling area?
  • Can you reach fire, police, medical and other emergency services with a local call?
  • Does your local calling area include a business district?

These questions outline the basic calling needs of a household. If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, look into whether that answer applies to only a handful of people or more broadly through your community. For instance, you might need to make a long distance call to your preferred physician or your favorite store but others in your community might use health care facilities and businesses located within the local calling area.

The UTC  will consider expanding local calling areas under only the most exceptional circumstances.

Filing a formal complaint for a larger calling area

You could file a complaint against your local phone company, alleging that it is in violation of commission rules regarding local calling areas. To be successful in your complaint, you will need to demonstrate that your local phone company has refused to offer other local calling options and that your circumstances are exceptional enough to justify a mandated larger calling area.

Formal complaints are legal documents. They do not have to be prepared by an attorney. Your complaint should be clear and accurate. Your facts must support your allegations and should demonstrate the exceptional circumstances that justify a larger local calling area. You should include copies of any relevant correspondence, including any responses from your local telephone company to your specific request for larger calling areas and local calling option plans. Your name and address and the name and address of your attorney, if you employ one, must be on the complaint.

You should become familiar with commission rules governing local calling areas as well as any other relevant statutes or  rules. The legal rules covering formal complaints can be found in Complaints -RCW 80.04.110 and Procedural Rules - WAC 480-07.

Even though an attorney is not required to file a complaint, you may wish to consult legal counsel to ensure you have considered all available options. If not represented by an attorney, you must include a statement that the document (pleading) is true and correct to the best of the signer’s belief. Commission staff are not allowed to provide legal advice to the public.