Much like merchant services fees invoices for telecommunications services can be difficult to understand. Here are some quick tips on how to read your ATT phone bill or conduct an ‘apples-to-apples’ cost comparison with other providers.
How Many Phone Lines Are On My ATT Bill?
Many business owners count the telephone lines listed under the ‘Additions and Changes to Service’ section of the telephone bill. This only provides you with an accurate count if all of your telephone lines experienced additions or changes to service during that billing month. In most instances, not all telephone lines incur additions or changes, which means that only some telephone lines appear in this section of the phone bill. It is not a reliable method to determine how many telephone lines your business is paying for.
Other business owners inventory their telephone lines by counting the telephone lists that appear on the bill with local, local toll and or long distance usage (sometimes you can find the call details under these sections of the phone bill: ‘Local Usage’, ‘Local Toll’, and ‘Long Distance’). Unfortunately, this method won’t provide you with an accurate count either because only the telephone lines with usage appear in these sections.
So what is the most reliable and accurate way to determine how many phone lines you are paying for?
- On your ATT telephone bill, locate the ‘Surcharges and Other Fees’ section.
- Find the ‘Federal Subscriber Line Charge’ and write down the total dollar amount billed.
- Divide the total Federal Subscriber Line Charge by $4.39 (this happens to be ATT’s Federal Subscriber Line Charge for each phone line).
Here’s an example:
|Total Federal Subscriber Line Charge||ATT’s Federal Subscriber Line Charge per Line||Phone Lines Billed|
How Much Am I Paying for Phone Service?
Your telephone service may be comprised of several components, including but not limited to:
- Telephone Lines
- Features (e.g., Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Three Way Calling, etc.)
- Local Service
- Local Toll (Directory Assistance) Service
- Long Distance Service
- Internet Access
For Telephone Lines
To determine how much you pay for telephone lines on a monthly basis, use this calculation:
Monthly Services Charges + Additions and Changes to Service – Promotions & Discounts ÷ Number of Telephone Lines = Cost per Telephone Line
Here’s an example:
|Monthly Service Charges||Total Additions and Changes to Service||Total Promotions and Discounts||Number of Telephone Lines||Cost per Telephone Line|
Unfortunately, Advanced Features (things like Caller ID, Call Waiting, etc.) do not appear on every ATT phone bill as separate line items. You will find them itemized on the first telephone bill you receive after the Features are added (in the ‘Additions and Changes to Service’ section), but after that, they are lumped into the ‘Monthly Service Charges’ section. This is problematic for understanding the true cost per telephone line when the cost of features is thrown into the mix. It makes it that much more difficult to do an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison with services offered by ATT competitors.
The best way to determine what features are on each of your telephone lines is to call ATT and request your Customer Service Record (CSR). The CSR is the complete record of all your telephone lines, services and features in a particular account. Once you have received your CSR, you can then identify which features are on each phone line, then you can utilize ATT’s website (or another conversation with ATT customer service if you can bear waiting that long to speak with a human) to determine the monthly price you pay for each feature.
For Local Calling
To calculate how much you are paying per minute for local calling follow these steps:
- Locate the ‘Local Usage’ section of the telephone bill
- Sum the total charges for each telephone line to determine the total Local Usage Cost
- Sum the number of local Initial Minutes and Additional Minutes for each telephone line
- Divide the total Local Usage Cost by the total number of Local Minutes
Here’s an example:
|Total Local Usage Cost||Total Number of Local Minutes||Cost per Minute for Local Usage|
For this blog post, I have not addressed bundled or unlimited local usage plans. I will address this topic in a subsequent blog post.
For Local Toll (Directory Assistance) Service
This is one area of an ATT bill that is easy to read and understand, yet it is often overlooked as an area where cost savings can easily be achieved. ATT Directory Assistance calls will often cost a dollar or more per call. There are a number of free Directory Assistance services out there (e.g., dial 1-800-Free-411, or Google it). To see how much you’ll save each month simply by changing to one of these free methods, add up the number of Directory Assistance calls made by each telephone line. You may be surprised.
For Long Distance Calling
To calculate how much you are paying per minute for long distance calling follow these steps:
- Locate the ‘Long Distance’ section of the telephone bill
- Determine whether there is a Long Distance Service Charge or Monthly Commitment amount billed
- Add up the total charges for each telephone line to determine the total Long Distance Usage Cost
- Sum the number of Long Distance Minutes for each telephone line
- Divide the total Long Distance Usage Cost by the total number of Long Distance Minutes
Here’s an example:
|Long Distance Monthly Service Charge||Total Long Distance Usage Cost||Total Number of Long Distance Minutes||Cost per Minute for Long Distance Usage|
For this blog post, I have not addressed bundled or unlimited long distance plans. I will address this topic in a subsequent blog post.
For Internet Access
Since this is a straightforward monthly charge, I thought it would be helpful to decode the jargon on the bill. Here is a table that provides you with an explanation of the most common service levels I have found when analyzing ATT phone bills for clients:
|What It Says On the ATT Bill||What It Means||IP Addresses||Downstream Speed||Upstream Speed|
|ATT HSI EXPRESS-D||High Speed Internet Express w/ Dynamic IP||1 Dynamic IP Address||Up to 1.5 Mbps||Up to 384 Kbps|
|ATT HSI PRO-D||High Speed Internet Pro w/ Dynamic IP||1 Dynamic IP Address||Up to 3.0 Mbps||Up to 512 Kbps|
|ATT HSI ELITE-D||High Speed Internet Elite w/ Dynamic IP||1 Dynamic IP Address||Up to 6.0 Mbps||Up to 768 Kbps|
|ATT HSI EXPRESS-S||High Speed Internet Express w/ Static IPs||5 Static IP Addresses||Up to 1.5 Mbps||Up to 384 Kbps|
|ATT HSI PRO-S||High Speed Internet Pro w/ Static IPs||5 Static IP Addresses||Up to 3.0 Mbps||Up to 512 Kbps|
|ATT HSI ELITE-S||High Speed Internet Elite w/ Static IPs||5 Static IP Addresses||Up to 6.0 Mbps||Up to 768 Kbps|
In Taxes, Fees and Surcharges
This aspect of the phone bill requires in-depth analysis. Find out how to put the brakes on telecom fees in this post about telecom taxes, fees and surcharges. You might be surprised at what is and what is not actually a government tax, surcharge or fee.
Make an Apples-to-Apples Comparison
Now you are better prepared to review and analyze your next ATT telephone bill. The knowledge you’ve gained from this post can also be used to help you conduct an ‘apples-to-apples’ cost comparison with other providers.
As always, feel free to comment on this post or contact me with any questions.