If you're an AT&T phone customer, take a look at your next bill.
I mean really take a close look.
There are a half-dozen fees and surcharges on there that, quite frankly, don't make any sense to "Suzan" of Independence, Mississippi.
Suzan e-mailed me:
"Each month on my ATT bill I have Federal Universal Service Fees, Federal Subscriber Line Charges, Telecommunications Relay Service, MS Emergency Telecommunicator and Carrier Cost Recovery Fees. Where does all this money go...?"
My good friend Cathy Lewandowski with AT&T's offices in Nashville explained where the money goes from each of these fees.
* FEDERAL UNIVERSAL SERVICE FEE. This fee goes to a pool that keeps phone services affordable for schools, libraries, hospitals and the poor. The kicker here is AT&T and other telephone companies are NOT REQUIRED to pass this one on to their customers.
But they do.
* FEDERAL SUBSCRIBER LINE CHARGE. It covers a portion of the costs to run the facilities that provide the telephone service. Lewandowski couldn't say if that meant buildings or relay stations or telephone poles. She says it's not limited to any specific infrastructure. It's just used to offset the costs of maintaining those facilities.
* TELECOMMUNICATIONS RELAY SERVICE. It covers the relay service for hearing impaired customers. This one is mandated by Mississippi law. That's why Mississippi customers like Suzan have to pay it.
* EMERGENCY COMMUNICATOR FEE. This pays for the training, oversight and certification of 911 communications.
* CARRIER COST RECOVERY FEE. This is levied to help AT&T recover state-to-state access and compliance expenses.
Also, for you AT&T cell phone customers, be very careful when you order ring tones. I know of some customers who have had strange charges turn up on their AT&T cell phone bills -- some as high as $200 -- after buying ring tones. That's because some of those ring tone companies sucker you into a subscription once you type in your 10-digit phone number.
That's when the fees start piling up.
Call AT&T customer service if that happens to you. It should drop those fees.