Telephone Service

Having a telephone or “phone” for short, is a very crucial part of living in the United States. There are two most commonly used forms of telephone service: fixed phones and cell phones.

There are many different things to consider when deciding on a home or cell phone. 87% of Americans have a cell phone, and that number increases every year. 45% of those have smart phones. 

  • If you spend most of your day outside of your home, a cell phone could be your best option.
  • However, if you work from home, or rarely leave, a home phone could be most beneficial.
  • Always remember, you can buy both a fixed and cell phone if you feel that you need to.

Cell Phones

Phones that are always wireless and can be used almost anywhere.

  • There is not a specific base for cell phones, so they may be used anywhere without losing reception.
  • Some cell phone service providers have areas that have little service for cell phones.
  • These can be different areas depending on the service provider, so it’s up to you to determine where your cell phone works the best.

How To Buy a Cell Phone

First, you have to decide who you will contract with to provide your service; this company is called your "carrier". The major carriers in the U.S. are:

Each carrier has their own pricing plans, areas of service they cover, and discounts. For a comparison of each carrier, you can see this article. Once you choose a carrier, you have to choose which phone you want. Many of the cell phones sold today are "smart phones."

Smart Phone

A smart phone is a cell phone with more options that make it easier to connect to the internet, access emails, take pictures and videos, and allows the user to download mobile applications, or "apps." Apps can include maps with step-by-step driving instructions, games, ways to create documents, edit pictures, and much more. Some apps are free, but many do cost a few dollars. Smart phones will vary in price, but they are more expensive than phones without all the extras.

Almost all smart phones are either an iPhone (made by the Apple Corporation) or run on Google's Android system. Most people get their cell phones as part of their plan from their carrier, but you can also find them for sale on Craigslist or from a private seller. Be warned, you are taking a chance buying a phone from anyone other than an official carrier, because a private sale will not include any guarantee or warranty, and some phones (especially iPhones) can be locked so they can only be used on certain carriers.

To own and use a cell phone, you must first purchase a “plan” from a service provider.

Plan

A contract between you and your service provider that states the terms of your cell phone service (for example: how many minutes you can use talking each month, how many text messages you can send, etc.).

Types of Plans

Individual Plans

  • Best if only one person will have a cell phone
  • Usually requires a minimum two year agreement, which means you must pick a plan for two years and stay with that service provider until the two years have passed.
  • If you want to leave the agreement before the time has passed, you might not be allowed to by the service provider, or be required to pay a fee to stop the contract.

Family Plans

  • Best if you are planning to get cell phones for yourself and members of your family.
  • Gives you reduced prices for purchasing multiple phones and plans.
  • Usually requires you to buy a plan for two or more phones.
  • Also usually requires a two year agreement, but other terms can be negotiated.

Prepaid Phones

  • Best if you are not planning to talk, or text very much, on your phone.
  • Requires a payment before you receive the phone, which determines how many minutes/texts you get to use.
  • For example: if you buy a prepaid phone with $20 on it, you can only use $20 worth of calls or texts, or a combination of both.
  • Once you use up your prepaid minutes or texts, you must purchase more from your service provider to keep using the phone.

Data Plans

  • Best if you need to use the internet on a daily basis.
  • Can only be used with phones that are capable of browsing the internet, which are commonly called “smart phones.”
  • Usually requires a two year agreement, along with a monthly internet usage fee, but other terms may be negotiated.

Although there are basic plans that the majority of cell phone service providers offer, each one has its own specific restrictions and benefits. Your best option would be to:

  • Search “cell phone service providers” into a search engine
  • Find a service provider that best fits your needs
  • Physically go to one of their locations and talk with a representative about plan/contract options

When looking at prices for cellphones, you need to compare prices and packages. Other things to consider:

  • What is included with the purchase of your phone? Does it come with a charger or protective case that will help prevent damage if you drop your phone? 
  • The batteries on smart phones run down a lot faster than other cell phones. You may want to have multiple chargers so you can have one at work and one at home. 
  • Insurance is often offered for new phones. This means you will be paying a little each month, and if your phone breaks or stops working (as long as you haven't done anything to break it, like getting it wet or smashing it), you will receive a replacement phone. This can be a money saving option, but it does make a phone more expensive.

Fixed Phone

  • Phones that are usually wired (but can be wireless) and are used inside of your house.
  • They are connected to a main port in your home, or office (the base) which is where your phone receives its signal from.
  • If your home phone is wireless, you can only use it at a certain distance from the base before you start losing reception.

If you decide to purchase a fixed phone for your home, you must then figure out what your home number is so that other people may call you.

You can dial 127.22.123 or 1.800.801.902 to learn what your home phone number is

There are numerous home phone service providers that usually offer cheap deals for fixed phones.

Phone Providers in Iowa

Here is contact information for some of the largest and most common of the phone companies:

CenturyLink:

Contact information can be found on this webpage:
http://qwest.centurylink.com/corporate/customerService/contactus/

Iowa Telecom:

Contact Iowa Telecom via Windstream with this number: 1.866.445.5880

OR use the information on this website to make an inquiry:
http://www.windstream.com/residential/customer-support-and-repairs/index.html

Mediacom:

Either access by this number: 1.855.MEDIACOM or 1.855.633.4226

OR fill out the information necessary on the website and receive a response back in a couple days:
http://mediacomcable.com/contact_us.php

Vonage:

Contact information as well as customer service numbers can be found here:
https://support.vonage.com/app/contact_us

Making a telephone call

Every phone number has ten numbers. For example, you will often see phone numbers written like this: (123) 456-7890.

If you are dialing long distance, you will have to dial "1" first, before the rest of the number.

The next set of three numbers is the area code, which identifies what part of the U.S., Canada and some other countries the number is assigned to. If you are calling outside of your region or you live someplace with overlapping regions, you will have to dial the area code. For a list of area codes, please see http://www.allareacodes.com/area-code-map.htm

The next group of seven numbers is what you dial if you are calling someone locally.

There are some numbers that are toll-free, meaning even though it is not a local number, there will not be a charge to call them.If a phone number starts with 800, 866, 877 or 888, that number is toll-free.

Telephone Service

Having a telephone or “phone” for short, is a very crucial part of living in the United States. There are two most commonly used forms of telephone service: fixed phones and cell phones.

There are many different things to consider when deciding on a home or cell phone. 87% of Americans have a cell phone, and that number increases every year. 45% of those have smart phones. 

  • If you spend most of your day outside of your home, a cell phone could be your best option.
  • However, if you work from home, or rarely leave, a home phone could be most beneficial.
  • Always remember, you can buy both a fixed and cell phone if you feel that you need to.

Cell Phones

Phones that are always wireless and can be used almost anywhere.

  • There is not a specific base for cell phones, so they may be used anywhere without losing reception.
  • Some cell phone service providers have areas that have little service for cell phones.
  • These can be different areas depending on the service provider, so it’s up to you to determine where your cell phone works the best.

How To Buy a Cell Phone

First, you have to decide who you will contract with to provide your service; this company is called your "carrier". The major carriers in the U.S. are:

Each carrier has their own pricing plans, areas of service they cover, and discounts. For a comparison of each carrier, you can see this article. Once you choose a carrier, you have to choose which phone you want. Many of the cell phones sold today are "smart phones."

Smart Phone

A smart phone is a cell phone with more options that make it easier to connect to the internet, access emails, take pictures and videos, and allows the user to download mobile applications, or "apps." Apps can include maps with step-by-step driving instructions, games, ways to create documents, edit pictures, and much more. Some apps are free, but many do cost a few dollars. Smart phones will vary in price, but they are more expensive than phones without all the extras.

Almost all smart phones are either an iPhone (made by the Apple Corporation) or run on Google's Android system. Most people get their cell phones as part of their plan from their carrier, but you can also find them for sale on Craigslist or from a private seller. Be warned, you are taking a chance buying a phone from anyone other than an official carrier, because a private sale will not include any guarantee or warranty, and some phones (especially iPhones) can be locked so they can only be used on certain carriers.

To own and use a cell phone, you must first purchase a “plan” from a service provider.

Plan

A contract between you and your service provider that states the terms of your cell phone service (for example: how many minutes you can use talking each month, how many text messages you can send, etc.).

Types of Plans

Individual Plans

  • Best if only one person will have a cell phone
  • Usually requires a minimum two year agreement, which means you must pick a plan for two years and stay with that service provider until the two years have passed.
  • If you want to leave the agreement before the time has passed, you might not be allowed to by the service provider, or be required to pay a fee to stop the contract.

Family Plans

  • Best if you are planning to get cell phones for yourself and members of your family.
  • Gives you reduced prices for purchasing multiple phones and plans.
  • Usually requires you to buy a plan for two or more phones.
  • Also usually requires a two year agreement, but other terms can be negotiated.

Prepaid Phones

  • Best if you are not planning to talk, or text very much, on your phone.
  • Requires a payment before you receive the phone, which determines how many minutes/texts you get to use.
  • For example: if you buy a prepaid phone with $20 on it, you can only use $20 worth of calls or texts, or a combination of both.
  • Once you use up your prepaid minutes or texts, you must purchase more from your service provider to keep using the phone.

Data Plans

  • Best if you need to use the internet on a daily basis.
  • Can only be used with phones that are capable of browsing the internet, which are commonly called “smart phones.”
  • Usually requires a two year agreement, along with a monthly internet usage fee, but other terms may be negotiated.

Although there are basic plans that the majority of cell phone service providers offer, each one has its own specific restrictions and benefits. Your best option would be to:

  • Search “cell phone service providers” into a search engine
  • Find a service provider that best fits your needs
  • Physically go to one of their locations and talk with a representative about plan/contract options

When looking at prices for cellphones, you need to compare prices and packages. Other things to consider:

  • What is included with the purchase of your phone? Does it come with a charger or protective case that will help prevent damage if you drop your phone? 
  • The batteries on smart phones run down a lot faster than other cell phones. You may want to have multiple chargers so you can have one at work and one at home. 
  • Insurance is often offered for new phones. This means you will be paying a little each month, and if your phone breaks or stops working (as long as you haven't done anything to break it, like getting it wet or smashing it), you will receive a replacement phone. This can be a money saving option, but it does make a phone more expensive.

Fixed Phone

  • Phones that are usually wired (but can be wireless) and are used inside of your house.
  • They are connected to a main port in your home, or office (the base) which is where your phone receives its signal from.
  • If your home phone is wireless, you can only use it at a certain distance from the base before you start losing reception.

If you decide to purchase a fixed phone for your home, you must then figure out what your home number is so that other people may call you.

You can dial 127.22.123 or 1.800.801.902 to learn what your home phone number is

There are numerous home phone service providers that usually offer cheap deals for fixed phones.

Phone Providers in Iowa

Here is contact information for some of the largest and most common of the phone companies:

CenturyLink:

Contact information can be found on this webpage:
http://qwest.centurylink.com/corporate/customerService/contactus/

Iowa Telecom:

Contact Iowa Telecom via Windstream with this number: 1.866.445.5880

OR use the information on this website to make an inquiry:
http://www.windstream.com/residential/customer-support-and-repairs/index.html

Mediacom:

Either access by this number: 1.855.MEDIACOM or 1.855.633.4226

OR fill out the information necessary on the website and receive a response back in a couple days:
http://mediacomcable.com/contact_us.php

Vonage:

Contact information as well as customer service numbers can be found here:
https://support.vonage.com/app/contact_us

Making a telephone call

Every phone number has ten numbers. For example, you will often see phone numbers written like this: (123) 456-7890.

If you are dialing long distance, you will have to dial "1" first, before the rest of the number.

The next set of three numbers is the area code, which identifies what part of the U.S., Canada and some other countries the number is assigned to. If you are calling outside of your region or you live someplace with overlapping regions, you will have to dial the area code. For a list of area codes, please see http://www.allareacodes.com/area-code-map.htm

The next group of seven numbers is what you dial if you are calling someone locally.

There are some numbers that are toll-free, meaning even though it is not a local number, there will not be a charge to call them.If a phone number starts with 800, 866, 877 or 888, that number is toll-free.