Down with the DC Cellular Surcharge!

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I’m getting ready to settle down in the DC area again after a long while of living overseas. So, I’m getting things in order. One of the first things I did upon coming back to the States was get a new cell phone. I’m loving my new iPhone (a topic for another post) and my DC phone number (complete with 202 area code).

But now the bill has come in and I’m wondering if I was wise to get a DC phone number. I looked at my bill and there were additional charges of about $11 (on top of a whopping $74/month contract fee). Here’s the rundown of the fees:

Credits, Adjustments & Other Charges

DC 911 FEE0.76
Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge1.05
DC Cellular Surcharge Residential7.75
Federal Universal Service Charge1.47

Do you see the third charge listed above – DC Cellular Surcharge Residential? I looked online to see what this is and saw that covered this a couple years ago. It really seems like an outrage to me and I am surprised that, two years on, people haven’t been marching in the streets over this. How can having a cell phone in DC be considered a luxury?

Anyhow, I am on a fact-finding mission to find out the reason behind this surcharge. What is it? What is it helping to fund? Why are people in DC allowing this to go through, month-after-month, without complaining?

I am determined to get to the bottom of this. I’m also considering changing my new phone number. *sigh*


  1. I live in DC and do not have a DC number (boston area code) but have been charged the DC Cellular Surcharge Residential. I think its your billing zip code that determines the tax.

  2. We moved to Florida, kept our DC numbers, and are still getting charged the DC surcharge. It may be that they charge it by either zip code OR area code.

  3. All I know if that it is very annoying. I haven’t had the time to really “fight the power” as it were. But the fact that I’ve gotten a few comments on this means that people are researching this topic and wondering what the heck is going on with all the fees on their phone bills.

  4. I have a Virginia number and a Virginia billing address, but spend the majority of my time in DC and they charge me. I think its a catch all rip off of what towers your cell phone pings to your area code to your address. DC is getting paid either way. It would take a class-action suit to get traction on this. If there is one, sign me up!

  5. I live in San Luis Obispo, CA and have a LA number and I am getting the same charges. DId you ever find out what it is?

  6. I didn’t. But the fact that I’ve started getting traffic on this post a few years after writing it means there’s still some funny billing going on.

    Thanks for your comment!

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