U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) had the right idea when he named the bill he introduced last week.
The bill aims to help prevent long-distance carriers from blocking or disrupting calls to rural areas. But rather than giving the bill a name such as “Rural Call Completion Act,” Johnson instead is calling it “the Public Safety and Economic Security Communications Act.”
Some people may not realize what a big deal it is when calls don’t go through to rural areas. But the ultimate result is that peoples’ lives are put in danger and companies lose business.
That’s a big deal – and the chosen name better conveys what a big deal it is.
In a statement included in the Congressional Record, Johnson noted that the rural call completion problem “poses a serious public safety threat, such as when a police dispatcher cannot reach law enforcement or when a doctor cannot call a patient.”
He cited the real world example of a rural health clinic in Canistota, S.D. that has experienced a decline in business because incoming calls regularly do not reach the clinic and some patients have heard misleading messages about the clinic’s number being disconnected.
Johnson’s bill would require companies that transport voice calls to register with the FCC and comply with basic service quality standards, which would be established by the commission within 180 days of enactment.
The legislation would “build upon” the FCC’s ongoing call completion efforts, Johnson said in a press release about the bill.
The FCC has ruled that carriers are required to complete calls to rural areas and has received monetary settlements from Level 3 Communications and Windstream resulting from investigations into the companies’ call completion practices.
As Johnson noted in his statement, it appears that some carriers – or the least cost routers that handle calls for them – are deliberately failing to complete calls to rural customers to avoid the higher access charges associated with rural telephone networks.
The problem has proven to be a difficult one to put a stop to, despite ongoing FCC action.
Image courtesy of flickr user drewleavy.