If you’re a Texan who has a phone, cell, OR landline, part of your bill is going to go up by 700% later this year.
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash
Like it or not, we’re ALL on the hook for providing phone service for people in very remote, rural parts of the state.

You can see all the numbers and math in reporting done by Dave Leiber in the Dallas Morning News.

 I can give you the TL;DR version right now, though.

If you’ve examined your phone bill closely you’ve noticed lots of additional “fees”. Some of them can really be head-scratchers. What IS a “Regulatory Fee”? What are these “administration fees” that I pay every month?  It feels like your phone bill is operating under the “Ticketmaster-Charge-for-anything-and-make-up-a-few” playbook.

Specifically, in this story, we’re talking about the “Universal Service Fund”.  The federal government requires ALL cell phone providers contribute a percentage of their profit to pay for phone service in remote, usually rural areas. Telephone service is no longer considered a luxury, but a right. The government says ALL phone companies have to chip in so people out in the sticks can have phone service.

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash
Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

To be clear: phone companies don’t HAVE to pass that fee on to the customer. But, most of them do.  Because of course, they do.

To get some idea of how much this is going to impact your bill starting in September, you can do this simple calculation:

Find the charge for “Texas Universal Service” (not to be confused for the “Federal Universal Charge”. That’s ANOTHER one).

If you have additional cell lines on your bill, add them all up.

Multiply that amount by seven. That’s how much you can expect your monthly bill to go up. The increase will remain in effect until the over-$200 million shortfalls are made up.

The Electric Reliability Council Of Texas Urges Texans To Lower Their Power Use During Current Heat Wave
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Why is this happening all at once? As with many things in Texas, you can blame it on the state’s Public Utility Commission and Gov. Greg Abbott. The same rogue’s gallery that brought you the 2021 Texas Winter Disaster is also responsible for this latest **ckery.

In June of 2020, when the Texas Universal fee was at 3.3%, PUC staff recommended that the rate goes to 6% until the deficit was balanced.  The PUC leadership declined to pay up.

This is not a time when we should be raising taxes on people.

Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea said at the time.

Then, in 2021 when the state Legislature tried to fix the backlog, Greg Abbott vetoed the bill.

Does this sound familiar? Badly needed improvements in the power grid (that famously failed and sent Ted Cruz fleeing to Cancun while people literally froze to death in their beds) we ignored by the leadership.

They wanted to be able to say, “Look! We kept your bill from going up”.

Well, the piper always has to be paid. Just like with the grid fiasco, the piper's fee is much, much, more painful than if we had responsible leaders who could see further than the end of their noses.

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