Telecommunications

Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire, radio, optical, or other electromagnetic systems.

The Division of Consumer Advocacy (DCA) primarily reviews and acts upon filings made by telecommunications service providers with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The Division of Consumer Advocacy has also participated in proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission. Due to the critical nature of communications, the Consumer Advocate tries to ensure that these telecommunications services are available to consumers at reasonable and affordable rates.

Telecommunications in Hawaii, A Brief History

Hawaii’s telecommunications industry continues to change with newer technologies and services, and the regulation of Hawaii’s telecommunications industry is also changing. This industry used to be called “the telephone industry”. Now, some telecommunication services are still under traditional regulation (like basic local exchange service), some are less strictly regulated (like long-distance service and wireless telephone) and some are virtually unregulated (like the internet and cable television). Traditional regulation of monopoly services is predominantly performed at the state level, in our case by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. Services that cross state boundaries or use radio frequencies are primarily regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

Telecommunication Companies

There are many companies providing telecommunication services in Hawaii. A comprehensive list can be found here.

Telecommunications Relay and Speech to Speech Services

Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), also sometimes referred to as TDD (telecommunications devices for the deaf), is a service mandated by Federal and State rules and statutes.

For more information on TRS or TDD click here.

Your Telephone Bill

You must pay your provider in a timely fashion in order to receive continuous service. The basic form of your telecommunication bill will contain common elements regardless of which company provides your electric service. See a sample bill from Hawaiian Telcom below.

Download (PDF, 467KB)

What does my bill include?
  1. Billing Information
    This section includes your account information and customer service contact number. "Service period" refers to the dates for which you are being billed. "Usage period" is the date range for which call activity details appear on this statement. The same billing information appears on every page.

  2. Account Summary
    A summary of your previous balance, payments, adjustments and late fees.

  3. New Charges
    An itemization of new charges for each of your services for the billing period.

  4. Total Amount Due
    The payment amount due. If you've signed up for automatic bill payment, the date your bank account will be debited is shown below the payment amount.

  5.  Important Messages
    Check here for important service information.  
  6. Payment Slip
    To pay by check, sign up for automatic bill payment from your checking or savings account or to make an address change, mail in the payment slip in the enclosed reply envelope.

  7. Balance Forward
    An itemization that starts with your previous balance, subtracts credits and adds any late fees for the billing period.

  8. Account Activity Detail
    This section confirms charges for services to which you subscribe as well as detailed information regarding service packages, prorated charges, one-time charges, discounts, usage charges, taxes, surcharges and regulatory fees. 

If you ever have any questions about a line item appearing on your bill or the charges being assessed, you should call your service provider. In addition, before you call your telecommunications services provider, you may also want to confirm with other users of telecommunications services in your home or business whether they may be responsible for any questionable items or charges appearing on your bill.

Slamming and Cramming

While it may be easier to simply look at the total and pay the billing company that amount, that may not be a prudent decision. You may unknowingly be the victim of practices such as slamming and/or cramming. While you must pay for the services you have ordered from the service provider you selected, you should not be held responsible for calls you did not make from a carrier you did not select. You should always carefully review your phone bill to ensure that you are not paying for something for which you are not responsible. 

Slamming

Slamming is an industry term for a situation where a telephone consumer’s phone service is switched from the preferred or selected carrier to another telecommunications services provider. The result of such a practice can be the customer paying extremely high per minute charges and/or high monthly recurring charges for long distance and/or local phone services. Slamming may occur as a result of unintentional actions, or intentional, fraudulent actions. Services providers have implemented steps to mitigate the chances of slamming occurring. However, each consumer must also contribute to prevent slamming occurring to them. First, you should be very careful of signing anything without reading the fine print carefully. There are some schemes where the consumer is asked to send in a signed sweepstakes entry, but the only end result is that your phone service is switched. In addition, you should review your monthly phone bill. Upon review, there will be clear indication of the entity who is currently providing your services. If the company reflected on your bill is not the company you selected as your provider, you should contact your local phone company and the long distance services provider that you had selected. Be sure to confirm that you will not get assessed a change in your primary interexchange carrier by the telephone company. Since you were a victim of slamming, you should not be held responsible for any charges that may be assessed to restore your preferred long distance services provider.

Cramming

Cramming is an industry term for a situation where a company may charge for telecommunications or information services that were not intentionally ordered by the consumer. As a result, unwary consumers may end up paying a telecommunications services provider for services that they did not want to order and should not have to pay for. Please note that this situation is different from one where another user may have ordered or utilized telecommunications services without informing the billpayer(s). To take precautions against cramming, you should review your monthly phone bill carefully. If there are any charges that do not appear familiar, you should call the provider that is charging you for the services.

For more information on cramming, visit the FCC’s Cramming Tip Sheet for Consumers page.

Lifeline 

Lifeline is a government program that offers qualified people a discount on their monthly local telephone or internet bill. Each state has its own guidelines to qualify. Click here to view more information.

Hawaiian Telcom Tariffs

Click here to view a PUC approved list of rules and rates charged for the provision of Hawaiian Telcom’s regulated services.