Many companies sell mobile phones, and it is wise to compare prices and features. When you buy a mobile phone, you will probably be asked for your Social Security number. If you do not have one, you may be asked to pay a security deposit. An alternative is a prepaid mobile phone. Most companies offer prepaid plans and you can also buy prepaid phones and minutes at many electronics and discount stores.
You can buy a telephone at most hardware, electronics, and department stores. People leaving MIT may also advertise phones for sale. Telephone service in the United States is privately owned and operated. Unless you choose a digital plan, service is divided into two parts, local and long-distance. Many companies offer digital phone service (local and long distance), and most have discounted plans for those who also order cable television and/or Internet service from the same company.
For assistance in making your selection, look online, review advertisements, or ask for recommendations. Or, look in the "yellow pages" (large phone books for each town) under "Telephone Companies." Rates can differ substantially, so "comparison shopping" is recommended. Prices also change frequently, and many companies offer introductory packages at reduced rates. Be sure to ask about all charges, including the basic rate, rates for special features, and rates you will be charged for each call, if applicable, in addition to taxes and fees. When your phone bill arrives, be sure to compare the fees you were charged with the rates you were quoted when you selected the plan. If your charges do not match the rates you were quoted, call the customer service number on the bill and ask to speak to a supervisor.
If you make a lot of international calls, compare rates before choosing the company for your long-distance service. Many companies offer plans with discounted rates on international calls for an additional monthly fee. Some people download free software from Skype to make calls. Others buy a prepaid calling card. Zaptel has information on various prepaid calling card options.
See the MIT online directory.
All phone numbers in the United States have ten digits: a 3-digit area code plus a 7-digit local number. Each state has at least one area code. To make a call from a mobile phone, always use the full 10-digit number. To make a local call from a "landline," use the 3-digit area code plus the 7-digit local number. (In some states and cities, the area code is not required for a local call.) To make a long-distance call from a landline, dial "1" plus the 3-digit area code plus the 7-digit local number. To call internationally, you must dial "011" before the country code and phone number. To call from one MIT phone to another, you only need to use the last five digits of the phone number (example: 3-2851 instead of 617-253-2851). To call off campus from an MIT phone, dial "9" before the area code.
In many automated phone procedures, for example when calling a business or customer service number, you will be asked to "press the pound key." The symbol for the pound key is #. Directory information is available by dialing "411" (usually for a fee), and there are several free directory assistance choices including "GOOG 411": dial 1-800-466-4411. To get assistance (not directory information) from a telephone operator, dial "0."
Around town, you can sometimes find public telephones. Calls can be made with coins or with any calling card. Charges will vary on calling cards, and typically there is a pay phone surcharge.
Emergency police, ambulance, or fire assistance is available by dialing "911." This is a free call from any phone, including mobile, landline, or pay phone. In case of an emergency while on campus, dial 100 from any MIT phone or 617-253-1212 from your mobile phone. It is recommended to program this number into your mobile phone.
Last Updated: June 2014