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Consider Your Options

The choices for phone services have never been greater. Most consumers are now able to buy local and long-distance phone service from their telephone company, cable or satellite TV provider, or Internet service provider. Services such as voice-mail, call waiting, caller ID, paging and wireless service may be offered as a package deal or sold separately. Before you buy, compare services and prices, and think about what you really need.

  • Whom do you call most often?
  • What time of day or day of the week do you call?
  • Do you want to get messages. If so, do you need voicemail or will an answering machine do?
  • Do you want call waiting and/or caller ID?
  • How important is it for you to have your telephone with you when you are away from home?

Find out how each company prices its services. Are there minimum-use, time-of-day or distance requirements, flat monthly fees; or special plans? For example, wireless service may be cheaper than regular local service if you don't make many calls.

Make sure you're comparing prices on similar plans and features. Understand that many service providers offer contracts for specific periods. Read the fine print and ask questions if there is anything you're not clear about.

The FCC offers consumer information about choosing a long distance carrier, understanding new phone fees and taxes, and more.