I've dealt with my local phone company for many years. From the roll-up of Pacific Northwest Bell into US West and then the merger with Qwest, prices have gotten higher and higher and the reliability has gotten a little worse. At some point my wife or I will decide that we don't really need the land line and it will go away.

The thing that's most annoying about them is the amount of advertising they're doing. They're constantly on the radio, TV, billboards, in the newpaper, ads on the internet and direct mail pieces. It seems obvious that they're not getting a lot of takers. Why not? Well, they could start with the big disclaimer on every ad. Anything that they're promising on the front, they're taking away on the back.

For example, Qwest tells me that I'm paying $18.45/month. I wish. Our last bill was $31.38. That includes $2.20 for Extended Area Calling, $4.26 in taxes, 911 and universal service fees. But what really gets me is the $6.50 "Federal Access Charge": This charge, allowed by the FCC, covers part of the cost for providing access to and maintenance of the local network.

So what's Qwest going to charge? We don't know. We know it's going to be higher than they're telling us. We just won't know how much until we hit the checkout button ... and maybe not then.

I'm paying $31.35/month to Qwest and $57 to Comcast for cable modem and basic cable. Plus using a long distance provider at $.03/minute for the little long distance calling we do. I wouldn't mind having one bill that I could understand so we could get ESPN and Nickelodeon even if it we had to mount a dish and get slower internet speed and pay another $20/month.

But what's the price? The real price? Qwest won't tell you. And that's why I hate them and most other people do, too.