T-MobileT-Mobile has agreed to pay $40 million into the U.S. Treasury and has admitted to violating FCC call completion rules in rural areas. The T-Mobile rural call completion settlement also will require the company to establish a compliance plan.

T-Mobile Rural Call Completion Settlement
For several years, people who live in rural areas served by small landline carriers have complained that they do not receive some calls made to them. Carriers serving the people who call the rural areas can avoid paying per-minute charges to the rural carriers by simply failing to complete calls to those areas. This problem has been particularly challenging to address because some originating carriers use intermediate providers to deliver calls for them and in many cases, call completion problems have been traced to these intermediate providers.

The T-Mobile violations stemmed, at least in part, from an intermediate carrier. But FCC rules put in place in xx hold originating carriers responsible for call completion violations made by intermediate carriers.

According to an FCC order adopted yesterday, T-Mobile admitted that it violated the commission’s prohibition against the insertion of false ring tones, which made callers believe the people they were calling did not answer when in fact the call recipients never received the call. In addition, T-Mobile admitted that it did not correct problems with delivery of calls to certain rural areas.

“Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications,” wrote the FCC in the order. “They cause rural businesses to lose revenue, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications.”

T-Mobile is the latest in a string of carriers that have entered into agreements with the FCC to settle rural call completion investigations. Other companies that have entered such agreements include Verizon, Windstream and several smaller companies. The T-Mobile settlement is one of the largest, if not the largest, of such settlements. Verizon and Windstream paid $5 million and $2.5 million, respectively.

The FCC investigation into potential T-Mobile rural call completion violations was triggered, at least in part, by complaints from three rural telcos in Wisconsin who, collectively, alleged 40 separate incidents in which T-Mobile customers were unable to complete calls to consumers served by the rural telcos. An investigation showed that at least seven other rural carriers had made a substantial number of complaints to T-Mobile about call completion problems.

The compliance program that T-Mobile will be required to implement involves appointing a senior-level compliance officer, conducting employee education programs, creating a compliance manual and issuing regular call completion reports to the FCC.