Rural telcos that have problems with calls not going through to their customers from Verizon customers now have a hot line to call at Verizon. In addition, Verizon plans to award $30,000 to $50,000 for an academic study on methods to determine and resolve rural call completion problems in real time.

Both initiatives were discussed at a rural call completion workshop that Verizon conducted in April. (Telecompetitor was unable to attend the workshop but Verizon shared presentation materials from the event with us. The materials also are publicly available on a Verizon webpage dedicated to rural call completion issues.)

The hotline, academic study and workshop all were conditions of a rural call completion compliance plan that Verizon reached with the FCC, which in January said the company failed to investigate evidence of low call answer rates to 26 different rural areas. The settlement included $2 million in fines and $3 million for the compliance plan.

Rural carriers have complained for years about calls not going through to their customers. As participants explained in Verizon’s workshop, this sometimes occurs because one of multiple carriers handling the call wants to avoid paying per-minute access charges to the terminating carrier. Those charges are higher in rural areas to help cover the higher costs of delivering service in those areas. Carriers may use a variety of methods to avoid terminating calls, including delivering a ringtone to the caller in advance of ringing the called party’s line, causing the caller to believe the called party is not answering.

Verizon Rural Call Completion Hotline
“If you are a rural carrier experiencing issues with call completion from Verizon or Verizon Wireless customers, we want to hear from you,” writes Verizon in a brochure targeting rural carriers.

Verizon calls its offering the RCC Hotline, for “rural call completion.” In the brochure the company notes that rural carriers should call the line after obtaining information from their customers, rather than having the customers call. Carriers should be prepared to provide:

  • Caller and called party phone numbers
  • Dates and times when problems occurred
  • A description of the issue
  • A description of any testing the carrier already conducted to rule out local network or tandem switch issues or issues at the customer premises
  • Contact information for a representative at the rural carrier

The RCC Hotline number is (800)285-3776.

The Academic Study
Interested parties have until July 2 to submit proposals for Verizon’s rural call completion academic research project. The company plans to make a decision on who will conduct the research by September 9 and project results will be due at the end of 2016.

If the project is successful in determining a real-time method to detect and resolve rural call completion issues in real time, that would be a major breakthrough, as these problems have been difficult to diagnose and address.

As Verizon representative Matt Ottney noted in a Powerpoint presentation from Verizon’s April workshop, “Time is of the essence when isolating call completion issues.” Among other best practices, Ottney recommended that all carriers agree to accept trouble reports up to 72 hours after the time of the call.

Also at the workshop Doug Davis, a representative from tandem service provider HyperCube, advocated managing networks for a P.01 grade of service, as specified in Erlang tables traditionally associated with TDM trunking. A P.01 grade of service specifies that no more than one call out of 100 fails to be completed, explained Davis.

“Managing to the P.01 grade of service from end to end would have eliminated the need to have this conference,” says a slide from Davis’s presentation. “Even though old Erlang B seems simple by today’s standards, striving for such a simple standard as P.01 should put today’s technology on par with yesterday’s. At least as far as call completion goes.”

Image courtesy of flickr user drewleavy.