Are you racking up a $58,000 phone bill?
No one person is responsible for the staggering $58,000 tab for Ramstein Air Base each month, but hold the phone: many are contributing to it.
At Stateside bases, communications squadrons purchase service from a telecommunications company, or telcos, to handle non-DSN off-base calls.
Since local non-toll calls are covered under a flat fee, they incur no additional cost to the government. Likewise, government cell phones Stateside are issued on monthly plans, incurring charges only for roaming and overage minutes.
However, European telcos operate under rules different from their American counterparts.
“Each principality has its own toll, called a tariff, for phone calls made from on base,” said Senior Master Sgt. Louie Trujillo, 435th Communications Squadron telecommunications branch superintendent. “As a result, every call made using the 99 prefix costs the Air Force money.”
European cell phone rules are different as well. In America, the phone owner bears the cost of calls made to or from a cell phone. In Europe, the calling party foots the bill – and calls to cell phones are much more costly than those made to land lines.
According to Stuart Wright, telephone control officer from the 435th CS, cellular charges range from €0.16 per minute for T-Mobile and Vodafone to €0.19 per minute for E-Plus and O2.
Also, it is 50 percent cheaper to call a government cell phone from another government cell phone than from a landline phone.
Lt. Col. Amy Dayton, 435th CS commander, acknowledges the necessity of checking in with family members during duty hours.
“We understand that many times off-base calls simply can’t be avoided,” she said.
However, Colonel Dayton reminded people to, “Keep calls as short as possible. ‘Excellence in All We Do’ includes protecting taxpayer dollars through resource excellence.”
When dialing 99, time is money – and every second counts.