Cagey Consumer

How to Avoid AT&T Minimum Charge

Pointing to $300 million in annual losses resulting from low-volume customers, AT&T announced that, effective July 1999, a $3 monthly minimum charge would apply to residential customers on AT&T's basic rate plan. (See AT&T 4/6/99 press release for further details).

At the same time, AT&T announced a "block of time" program, which includes a 30 minute block of time for a $3.00 monthly fee, with additional minutes charged at 20¢ each. (Note that AT&T imposes $1.78 for PIC-C and universal service fees on top of the $3.00 monthly charge.)

Alternatives to AT&T Minimum Fees Available

Here are three strategies existing AT&T customers can use to avoid this monthly minimum:
Switch to the AT&T One-Rate Online program
Customers with internet access can sign up for one of the AT&T One Rate Online programs. (There have been at least two different programs under this name. Check with AT&T customer service for current plan details.)

Switch to another long distance carrier
Use Cagey Consumer's long distance rate calculator to find other long distance companies that have programs without monthly charges or minimums. Be sure to call the long distance company's customer service to make sure you understand any other monthly fees as well as to make sure they aren't planning on instituting any new monthly charges or minimums.

Cancel your long distance service altogether
Tell AT&T to close your account, and tell your local phone company to switch to "no presubscribed long distance carrier", then use one of the "dial around" companies for your long distance calls (make sure it's one that doesn't have a monthly charge). Ask your local phone company if they charge a "PIC-C" fee when you have no presubscribed long distance carrier. This corresponds to a similar fee charged by most long distance companies, but the amount of the fee is frequently less, unless you have more than one phone line.

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April 9, 1999