The Minnesota Department of Commerce represents the public interest in all aspects of the regulatory process to promote competition and innovation, and ensure that reliable telecommunications services are provided to all.
Choosing a Provider
Find out which licensed companies serve homes and/or businesses in your area.
Traditional phone service is provided via analog signals over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). In recent years, more providers have begun offering service using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Some VoIP providers may have limitations to their 911 service, may need backup power to keep service going during power outages, and may or may not offer directory assistance or listings in telephone directories. Certain equipment may also be incompatible with VoIP services, such as fax machines, some security systems and specialized telephone equipment, so ask questions about the differences before selecting your service.
You may be surprised to see how many additional charges appear on your telephone bill. Some of these fees are government mandated, while others are charged at your service provider’s discretion.
Government mandated charges (not a complete list):
Telephone Assistance Plan(TAP): This charge is $0.07 per line, per month. It is used to help provide telephone service to Minnesota’s low-income residents.
Telecommunications Access Minnesota(TAM)/ Tele-Relay: This charge is $0.04 per line, per month. It is used to fund programs that provide telephone service to people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability.
911: This charge is $0.80 per line, per month, and appears on all telephone bills to operate Minnesota's 9-1-1 emergency response system.
Charges at the discretion of the company
The following fees may appear on your phone bill, and may look like government mandated taxes. In fact, they are fees imposed by your service provider and not all service providers choose to charge them.
Subscriber Line Charge (SLC) Also called a “Federal Access Charge” or “Interstate Access Charge,” the stated purpose of this fee is to help cover the local phone company’s cost to operate the local telephone network. This charge may be up to several dollars per month.
In-State Access Recovery Fee Long distance companies pay local telephone companies to originate and terminate long distance calls, and some Minnesota long distance providers add a surcharge to customers’ bills to recover the additional cost for in-state calling. You can avoid paying this extra charge by selecting one of the many long distance carriers that does not charge this fee. This fee or surcharge is different than the “Access Recovery Charge” (or ARC), which is authorized by the FCC, and can be easily confused with the In-State Access Recovery Fee.
Universal Service Fund (USF) Carriers must pay a percentage of their revenues into a national fund that helps provide telephone service to low income customers or customers in high-cost, rural areas. This fund also helps link the nation’s schools, libraries and rural hospitals to telecommunications networks, including the internet. Many carriers add a line item to consumer bills to recover this payment, but it is not government mandated and should not be located in the “taxes” section of your bill. You may also see this charge on a cell phone bill.
All companies authorized to provide local phone service in Minnesota are required to keep tariffs on file with the Commerce Department that list their service rates, as well as an explanation of all fees and surcharges. These tariffs are open to the public, and you can contact the provider directly or send us an email if you’d like more information. When in doubt, ask the provider to put the rates and terms they are quoting in writing. Be suspicious of any provider that refuses to put terms or rates in writing before you sign up for service.
Slamming is when your long distance phone service is switched to a different carrier without your permission. If you receive a bill from a company other than your selected carrier, you may have been slammed. Under state and federal law you may choose a long distance carrier in writing, or verbally. Verbal requests to change carriers require that a third party verifier records your consent. If a carrier does not get your consent in writing, or through the proper verbal process, it’s considered slamming. Contact your authorized carrier to be changed back to your carrier of choice and contact us to ensure the violations of law are properly addressed
Cramming is when unauthorized charges are placed on your telephone bill. State law prohibits a carrier from billing you for an optional telephone service that you did not order. All carriers must provide you with a list of the charges they assess customers, if you request it. Companies must also disclose this information to new customers, with or without a request. Or, you may call the Minnesota Department of Commerce at 651-539-1500 or send an email to access carrier tariffs, which list prices, terms and conditions. The Minnesota Attorney General website has additional information on cramming.
Robocalls are calls from a recorded message instead of a live person. Some robocalls are legal, such as those placed on behalf of candidates running for office, or certain charities asking for donations. However, many are illegal sales calls, cleverly disguised behind false caller ID information. For more information on robocalls and what you can do, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.
Victims of slamming, cramming or robocalls may call the Minnesota Office of Attorney General at (651) 296-3353 or send the OAG an email.
Many people receive unsolicited fax messages from sales offices and others. The Department of Commerce does not oversee this type of activity or accept complaints, but you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission or the Minnesota Attorney General.