The rural call completion problem has gained the attention of an important telecom technology organization, indicating that the telecom industry has recognized that the issue is not just a problem for rural telcos but also for the broader industry.

The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) is asking various types of carriers to complete an on-line survey asking the carriers to detail any call completion issues they are experiencing. In addition to asking what type of problems carriers are experiencing and the percentage that each problem type represents, the survey also asks carriers to describe how the problem was discovered and addressed. In addition, respondents are asked to describe the challenges they encountered in trying to resolve the problem and what industry actions respondents would like to see taken to address the problem.

Respondents are asked to complete the survey by January 11.

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The rural call completion problem first gained public attention last year after rural carriers located in areas with high terminating access charges began to hear reports from customers that callers were unable to reach them. Some of the rural carriers have done traffic studies to determine where the problem calls originated and it is widely believed that certain carriers, including VoIP provider Skype, are deliberately dropping calls to rural areas as a means of avoiding the high access charges.

Rural carrier associations brought the problem to the FCC, which conducted a workshop to gain more information on the topic but has not yet taken action to address the problem. ATIS now is also planning a rural call completion workshop, scheduled for February 2 and open to all service providers. In the on-line survey, the organization asks respondents if they would be willing to participate in the workshop and what topics they would like to see covered at the workshop.

According to an ATIS announcement, the organization’s goal is to develop a handbook which could be used as a tool by telecom companies in addressing call completion problems. “This document, which will be made available to the industry free of charge, is expected to include items, such as real time troubleshooting, how to identify responsibilities between parties, information to be placed in a trouble report to identify problems, cooperative testing arrangements and other relevant procedures aiding in preventing failures from occurring,” said the ATIS announcement.

Comptel, the association representing competitive carriers, yesterday advised its members about the survey in an email. Hopefully other carrier organizations also will be advising members about the survey.

It will be interesting to see what type of responses ATIS gets from outside the circle of small rural carriers which, to date, have provided most of the input on this topic. Some competitive carriers that operate in rural areas also have high terminating access charges, so they also may be experiencing problems.

In addition, as the FCC’s rural call completion workshops revealed, some of the larger incumbent telcos such as AT&T and Verizon, have received complaints from their customers about calls not going through to rural areas and have created special phone numbers that rural carriers can use to report such problems.

As the FCC workshops also revealed, addressing the rural call completion problem will not be a simple matter because some carriers enlist other carriers to complete calls on their behalf—and some of those underlying carriers hand off call completion responsibilities to yet other carriers.

Hopefully involvement by ATIS can yield some guidelines and best practices that can enable the telecom industry to more effectively address the issue. The question will be whether a voluntary industry-led solution will be sufficient.

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4 thoughts on “ATIS to Tackle Rural Call Completion Problem

  1. It's interesting to see ATIS perform a survey focused on gathering details about the issues, but the FCC has asked ATIS (http://www.fcc.gov/document/bureaus-send-letter-atis-re-rural-call-completion-issues) for a technical recommendations on TDP/IP interoperability.

    Some of the questions on the survey ask about issues the caller experienced, but since the rural providers are usually the called party's provider, it's difficult answer those with any good detail or certainty.

    Better for ATIS to work with the large RBOCs, IXCs, and intermediate carriers, and request longitudinal call attempt/completion rate testing to a list of numbers provided by the rural industry.

    1. Thanks for that link, Bernie. It's interesting that the blog entry talks more about removing incentives than enforcing the rules. That seems consistent with the FCC's approach.

  2. Here is an idea FCC, everytime a call has one way or less than desirable audio, incorrect digit delivery that can be proven you stick the originator of that traffic with a 1,000 dollar penalty. I gurantee they will spend a few minutes researching exactly which underlying carrier they choose to save a dime with. The problem is only getting worse since the FCC announced their involvement.

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