The ORS represents the public interest regarding the telephone service providers in South Carolina.
The ORS Telecommunications Department provides administrative oversight for the following Funds and Programs:
South Carolina Universal Service Fund
The South Carolina Universal Service Fund (USF) provides monetary support for telecommunications network and services provided by 24 Incumbent Local Exchange Companies (ILECs) in our state. The South Carolina USF also provides funding for Lifeline South Carolina.
Lifeline South Carolina provides an additional discount to state residents that qualify for the Federal Lifeline program. This additional discount is offered through 24 Incumbent Local Exchange Companies that offer wireline local service in the state.
The Federal Lifeline Program provides a discount on home or cell phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services. Lifeline is part of the Federal and State Universal Service Fund. The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands.
South Carolina Dual Party Relay Fund
The South Carolina Dual Party Relay Fund (DPRF) is funded by the telephone users of the state through their telephone, wireless, VoIP service provider, or prepaid wireless retail outlet. The ORS uses the DPRF funds collected from consumers and businesses to finance the following programs primarily for individuals with hearing or speech disabilities:
Telecommunications Relay Service
The Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) is a telephone service that allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. TRS is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories for local and/or long-distance calls. There is no cost to the TRS user. This service is funded through the Dual-Party Relay fee on all residential and business phone lines.
SC Equipment Distribution Program
The SC Equipment Distribution Program (SCEDP) provides specialized equipment allowing persons with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. Because the equipment is funded through the DPRF there is no additional cost for those who use this equipment.
Real-Time Closed Captioning
Real-Time Closed Captioning for local news is funded by the DPRF. Today the ORS sponsors local news broadcasts on five stations in four South Carolina markets.
Closed Captioning for the South Carolina General Assembly is also funded by the DPRF.
Regulated Telecommunications Utilities
In South Carolina certain providers of telecommunications network and/or telephone services are classified as telephone utilities by state law and must obtain a certificate from the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) to operate in the state. These telephone utilities are currently divided into four basic groups described and presented below:
Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers
Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILEC)(PDF)
Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILEC) include the 25 telephone companies that have built local telephone networks throughout the state. These companies are the traditional telephone companies, though most have transformed their businesses into modern communications companies offering broadband, cable TV and telephone services.
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLEC)(PDF)
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLEC) include a variety of telecommunications companies offering resold and facilities-based services including retail and wholesale telephone service and other telecommunications services. These companies were mostly formed after the passage of the 1996 Telecom Act that opened local telephone service to competition.
Interexchange Carriers (IXC)/Long Distance Carriers (PDF)
Interexchange Carriers (IXC) or long distance carriers began to be formed after the 1984 divestiture of AT&T.
Inmate Service Providers
Inmate Service Providers (PDF)
Inmate Service Providers are a specialized subset IXC. Inmate Service Providers provide service under contract to federal state and local inmate facilities throughout South Carolina.