Withdrawal of basic local exchange service
What is Basic Local Exchange Service (BLES)?
Local telephone companies are required by law to provide BLES throughout their service territory.
BLES is a standalone single line voice service with no features (e.g. call waiting, call forwarding three-way calling, per-line calling blocking) for a flat rate with local dial tone; touch tone dialing; access to 9-1-1; access to operator and directory services; per call, caller identification blocking service (*69); access to telecommunications relay service; and access to long distance service.
What is the withdrawal of BLES?
Recent changes to Ohio law provide a path for local telephone companies to no longer provide basic phone service, or BLES.
What does my traditional local telephone company have to do before it is allowed to stop providing its standalone voice service (withdraw BLES)?
Under Ohio law, the company must first receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to withdraw the long distance component of BLES.
After it receives FCC approval, a company must provide a 120-day notice to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and to any affected customers of its intent to withdraw BLES.
What are my responsibilities after receipt of a withdrawal of BLES notice?
Within the first 30-days of the notice, affected residential customers, or their authorized representative, that are unable to obtain reasonable and comparatively priced voice service must file a written statement stating this claim with the PUCO.
What is reasonable and comparatively priced voice service?
Reasonable and comparatively priced voice service includes voice service or its functional equivalent—access to 9-1-1—which is priced competitively with similar services. The reasonable and comparatively priced voice service can be provided using any technology (e.g., wireless, internet protocol etc.).
If I am an affected customer, how do I determine if I am unable to obtain reasonable and comparatively priced voice service?
The withdrawal notice may identify one or more alternative providers of voice service offering a voice service in the affected exchanges. The customer should contact the providers identified in the notice to determine if a service offering is available at the customer’s residence. If no alternative providers of voice service are listed on the withdrawal notice, the customer should check the PUCO website for further guidance. Please note, that reasonable and comparatively priced does not necessarily mean the same or lower price.
What if there are no alternative services where I live?
If a residential customer timely filed a notice with the PUCO (30 days after the utility sends notice), and the PUCO confirms you have no alternative service, your phone provider must continue to provide service for an additional year.
After one year, the PUCO will verify if there are other comparatively priced services available in your area. If there are no alternatives, the utility must provide you an additional year of service.
If after two years there is still no alternative provider of comparatively priced voice service, your utility must indefinitely provide voice service.
What are my options if I am a business customer?
Ohio law does not include a provision to file claims with the PUCO to retain their landline.
If I switch my service to a new provider of reasonable and comparatively priced voice service, can I keep my same number?
Yes, in most cases. If you are switching service providers and remaining in the same geographic area, you can keep your existing phone number. This process, often referred to as phone number porting, can be done between traditional telephone service, Voice over Internet Protocol and wireless providers. For more information about phone number porting see: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/porting-keeping-your-phone-number-when-you-change-providers.