The FCC’s plan to collect data about rural call completion, adopted a year ago, is now one step closer to implementation.

The commission on November 4 adopted an order on reconsideration that makes one key change to its data collection plan.  Long-distance carriers will not have to report data about intraLATA toll calls that are carried entirely over their own network or intraLATA toll calls that are handed off directly to the terminating local exchange carrier or to the tandem switch that the terminating LEC’s end office subtends. The change was made in response to a petition from USTelecom and ITTA.

“We find that modifying our original determination will significantly lower providers’ compliance costs and burdens without impairing the commission’s ability to obtain reliable and extensive information about rural call completion problems,” the FCC wrote.

The next step is for the Office of Management and Budget to review the data collection plan.

Rural Call Completion Reporting
The decision to collect call completion data was made after rural network operators for several years reported ongoing problems with calls to their customers not being delivered, or not being delivered properly, from other network operators. It is widely believed that this occurs because carriers delivering the calls wish to avoid paying per-minute terminating access charges, which tend to be higher in rural areas to help cover the higher costs of delivering service in those areas. Previous research has shown that this situation often arises when the carrier serving the caller uses one or more other carriers, known as least cost routers, to deliver the call.

A few carriers have paid fines after FCC investigations suggested the carriers were not properly completing calls to rural areas. That number could expand after the FCC reviews the rural call completion data it plans to collect.

After announcing its plans to collect rural call completion data from long-distance carriers that have more than 100,000 subscribers, the FCC received several petitions for reconsideration but rejected everything but the USTelecom/ ITTA request. Among the rejected petitions were several that complained about reporting costs or that asked the commission to modify which carriers are required to report.

“We hope that today’s order will give the commission the tools it needs to enforce its rules and ultimately deter the conduct or neglect that gives rise to such failures, so that all consumers, no matter where they live or work, can again receive reliable and high-quality long-distance voice,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, in a press release.

Image courtesy of flickr user drewleavy.