Discovery Hub

Smartphone Line Access Fees (and How to Avoid Paying for Them)


April 26, 2019

Smartphone line access fees are monthly charges levied by your cellular provider that allow you to access their network. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), companies can charge these fees to recover the costs incurred by providing access to their networks to make and receive calls. The FCC’s website states, “These charges are not a government charge or tax. The maximum allowable access charges per telephone line are set by the FCC, but local telephone companies are free to charge less, or even nothing at all.”

What do line access fees mean for you?

Many cellular providers previously charged line access fees for every line added to your service. For example, if you had a family plan, you paid an additional monthly access charge for each line included. For a family of four, these charges could add up quickly.

Because subsidized phones cost the cellular provider money, line access fees were a way for them to recoup some of that cost.

The cost of smartphone line access fees has gone down since many carriers have replaced subsidized phone pricing in favor of the more transparent (and more expensive) option of paying for a smartphone in installments. This payment method means the cost of your phone is no longer bundled into your bill and is listed as a separate line item.

Another change has been the widespread introduction of unlimited data plans. Carriers generally don’t charge line access fees if you pay for an unlimited plan. If you dig a little deeper, however, you’ll see that as the price of your unlimited data plan goes up for each phone you add, the total is close to what you would pay for a set amount of data.

Others charge a device access fees for unlimited plans, with a lower base price. In the end, you pay a similar amount for an unlimited plan for each carrier, whether or not a device access fee or line access fee is charged.

How to avoid line access fees

Line access fees are not a tax, so cellular providers are not required by law to charge them. The easiest way to avoid paying them is to opt for a carrier who doesn’t charge them.

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