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LOCAL PHONE BILLS DIFFER FROM MAINLAND

Aug. 25, 2002 – In the mainland telephone industry they pronounce it "slick."
"SLC" are the initials of the subscriber line charge that recently increased in the Virgin Islands from $5 a month per line to $6 per line. The half-page explanation of the additional $1 a month, sent out with its bills recently by Innovative Telephone, conflicts sharply with other information about the subject. SLC, incidentally, is not to be confused with the dollar-a-month charge for 911 services that Innovative does not want to collect any more. (See Plan to Have WAPA Collect 911 Fee Riles Critics.)
Quotations from the Innovative SLC explanation are shown in bold, and other comments in regular type.
"SLC … is a charge mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)."
The SLC fee is not mandated by the FCC, according to both an FCC spokesman and a source at AT&T, the long distance carrier. It is permitted by FCC, and a local carrier, like Innovative, may or may not impose the charge as it sees fit.
"As a result of new FCC regulations the SLC for residential and single line business customers will increase from $5 to $6 per line effective July 1, 2002."
What happened on July 1 was that the FCC increased the cap it allowed local phone companies to charge from $5 to $6. It did not mandate the increase.
"The increase does not increase the revenues of the Local Telephone Company (Innovative Telephone)."
The FCC Website says of the SLC: "It is not a tax or a fee charged by the government. The money received from the subscriber line charge goes directly [Source emphasis] to local telephone companies."
The Source asked a knowledgeable person in AT&T and got the same answer: "AT&T does not get the money, it goes to the local carrier."
"As a result of the $1.00 increase in the Subscriber Line Charge, the rates charged by the Long Distance Telephone Companies should decrease."
That's a little more complicated. The most recent SLC increase is part of a larger, long-term FCC plan to place more of the costs of phone service on the local user, and less on long-distance rates, a system sought by the long distance carriers, which have been for decades the subsidizers of local phone service.
"At the start of this process, a couple of years ago, the long distance carriers reduced their rates immediately," according to the AT&T lobbyist, "but no further reductions are in the cards at the moment."
A comparison between the Innovative phone bills and those received by this reporter for his home phone in Virginia is instructive. The Innovative bill received by a colleague at the Source carries two separate line items for:
Mainline . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $18.55
End User Access (the SLC by another name) . . $6.00
as well as some lesser charges.
Verizon, apparently recognizing where the money is going, sends out a bill to the Virginia customer including the SLC in the main phone bill, without making any distinctions. There is no effort made by Verizon to suggest that SLC funds goes anywhere but to the local phone company.
Verizon, incidentally, charges $6 monthly for the primary phone line SLC fee, and $6.62 a month for the SLC on a secondary line in the reporter's house.
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