Here's some data that might help you get a better rate for your ham radio Autopatch. In some states, there's a way to get residential rates in commercial locations IF the line will be used for emergency ham radio communication.
Please e-mail me with any additions to this table. You might help a lot of people. I'm getting feedback that this information IS helping in getting other phone companies to see that we're really not a business. Change has happened because we're helping each other by sharing our experiences. Please send me any letters or rules that have helped your case.
Much of the information I have now comes thanks to the ARRL. Here's their cover letter.
While we're at it, here's some other ideas to keep your autopatch costs low.
Since most patches don't allow for long distance calls, ask for a long distance carrier of 'none'. For single line installations, this will lead to a charge of $0.53 per month on your local phone bill, but it will save you charges from some long distance companies that are much more. Most of the larger LD companies are now charging minimum usage fees or 'regulatory' fees. A PIC of NONE will avoid those charges. However, a PIC of none will NOT prevent long distance calls. People can still use PIC codes (e.g. 10-321) to made long distance calls. If you don't trust your controller to block long distance or there are other people with access to your equipment, you still need toll restriction. If you're in a club, check the phone bill yourself every year. You'll be surprised how extra charges can get added to a bill over the years. Many aren't needed.
While it might result in more bills to pay, keep each site on it's own bill. That makes you look like a single line user and then certain surcharges are lower. For example, the fees that are supposed to go toward getting the Internet into schools go up for additional lines. If you had writing checks, get the automatic checking account withdrawal option. I haven't had to mail a check to a phone company in years. And there's another $0.32 a month you can save!
Since we don't want our friends looking for us on our patch line, or to prevent hackers, we usually pay to get the patch line non-published or unlisted. This usually costs about $2.00 a month. There's no need for it. The Listed name does NOT have to match the Payer name. For example, on my repeaters, the bills come in my name, but the service is listed as 'Otto Patch' It does have to look like a real name, but there's no requirement that it be real. When other hams see 'Otto Patch' on the caller ID, they get the idea and know it's a half duplex call before they even say hello.
When ever possible, do your own inside wiring. In every case, I've met the phone company at their terminal in the the phone room. You might need to borrow a 'fox and hound' from a friend to trace your cable pair. The fox puts a loud audio tone at the repeater end of an unused pair, then you go to the phone room and feel around with the hound until you hear the tone. The tone is picked up inductively, so no physical contact with the conductors is needed. Punch everything down nice and neat like the other lines in the building, the leave a tag on the wire for the installer. Most are so happy to see that most of the work has been done, they'll hook it up to their terminal with no questions asked. And you save a lot on the inside wiring charges.
Do you have other devices at the site that need to answer the phone? I have 3, the controller for DTMF commands, the controller's modem for remote updates/backups and an APRS weather station computer modem. Did I order 3 lines? No, just one. But that one line has 3 numbers. This distinctive ringing service is called a lot of things (see table below). The bell rings with a different cadence depending on what number was dialed (short-short or long-short-long) There are devices available that listen to the first ring, then route the call to the right port by the second ring. Once a call is established, the same device gives the other ports a busy signal to prevent them from barging in. Most of these devices cost under $80 and are available at telecom distributors like Graybar. One such unit is the RD3 by Command Communications, Inc. If your only other option is additional lines, they will pay for themselves in no time.
If you have any Other cost savings tips for other repeater owners, e-mail them to me and I'll add them to this page.
Ever need to know what tones make up DTMF (Dual Tone Multi-Frequency)? Find the digit you want, look up and look to the left to find the two tones that make it up.
Last rev. 01/14/08 13:11:32 -0500