FCCCarriers that deliberately fail to complete calls to rural areas could face cease and desist orders, forfeiture, license revocations and fines of up to $1.5 million, the FCC said in a declaratory ruling adopted and released yesterday.  The ruling is an important victory for rural telcos, who have seen a sharp increase in complaints from customers saying callers have not been able to reach them.

“These problems can have dire consequences,” the FCC wrote in the ruling. “Small businesses can lose customers who get frustrated when their calls don’t go through. Urgent long distance calls from friends of family can be missed. Schools may be unable to reach parents with critical alerts, including school closings due to extreme weather. And those in need of help may be unable to reach public safety officials.”

It is widely believed that certain carriers are deliberatly failing to complete calls as a means of avoiding the payment of per-minute inter-carrier compensation to the terminating carrier. Those charges are highest in rural areas, where reports of call completion problems have been increasing dramatically.

The FCC’s nine-page ruling references a variety of ways that failure to complete calls to another carrier violates existing statutes. The commission also said originating carriers could be liable for actions taken by least cost routers – other carriers who terminate calls for them.

“If carriers continue to hand off calls to agents, intermediate providers or others that a carrier knows are not completing a reasonable percentage of calls, or are otherwise restricting traffic, that is an unjust or unreasonable practice prohibited by section 201 of the [Telecommunications] Act,” the FCC said.

The commission also noted that enforcement action would not be restricted only to carriers that fail to complete calls but also would include practices such as informing a caller that a number is not reachable or is out of service when the number is, in fact, reachable and in service. Such practices, the FCC said, are deceptive or misleading and therefore are unjust and unreasonable practices under Section 201(b) of the Act.

Eventually the motivation for carriers to fail to complete calls to rural areas may fade away as the FCC implements planned ICC reforms, but that process will take years—and rural telco groups, as well as state utility commissions have urged the FCC not to wait to take action to address the issue. Such stakeholders have been particularly concerned since the FCC took no action after holding a rural call completion workshop back in October.

Last month a group of senators wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking the commission to provide an update about the rural call completion issue  – and that may have prompted the FCC to issue the declaratory ruling at this time.


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13 thoughts on “FCC Issues Rural Call Completion Ruling

  1. Darren is correct: the key is enforcement.

    As the order itself mentions, it simply repeats an anti-blocking order the FCC released in 2007. In other words, the anti-blocking requirement has been on the books for almost five years yet blocking persists and is growing. The FCC could and should have been enforcing its 2007 order but apparently has not. What makes this order any different than the last? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see the FCC finally "do" something about call termination.

    But whether or not the new order is a "victory" remains to be seen.

  2. I think it's incumbent on this industry to continue to keep the heat on the FCC so they can't hide behind this ruling. Between us, there's enough evidence to implicate carriers who are guilty of this. Don't take solace in this ruling. Keep the heat on.

  3. Txpatriot says it best. Everyone (including the fcc) knows magicjack is a prime culprit with this. How come no action against them yet?

  4. I would be happy to lead a rural test group. I suggest we place calls between us using the various carriers, document the results and present our findings on a monthly basis to the FCC. Thats what we did to collect the data I presented at the call completion workshop.

  5. My question is how long is it going to take before we see a change still today 2/21/12 I had several complaints saying they are getting the message that my phone has been disconnected when they try to call my business phones, We deal with thousands of companies across the United States. Not everyone trying to call my landline has my email or cell phone number to be able to reach. I guess in the mean time all us small business owners will go out of business because no one can reach us on our office phones & throw away our phone number. No one cares what affects it has on small business owners.

  6. Still happening today, hey FCC maybe you should start taking a look at one of the largest failing underlying carriers also known as Level3. 80% of our failed calls traverse their network at some point. I do my best to support customers like Riki, but until this impacts someone's wallet it will not cease to exist.

    1. Believe me it's sure affected my wallet. But who do you go to? My phone company Fairpoint communications tells me everything is working on their end & there is nothing they can do. I can't run a office with multiple phone lines with cell phones. Not sure what to do at this point in time.

      1. @Riki: Do you know who's calling you and can't get through reliably? Ask them to open a trouble ticket with their long-distance provider. If you can make it fail with a family or friend's cell phone you may be able to move more quickly on this issue.

        Fairpoint is not in a great position to help as they are only the recipients of the call, and if the call doesn't get to their network, there's not much they can do about it.

        And if working with the *originating* carrier doesn't get you anywhere, gather this info:
        – The date and time the call was placed
        – The phone number from which the call originated
        – The phone number that was dialed
        – If possible, the long distance or wireless provider for the phone number from which the call originated
        – Details about what the caller heard on the call, such delayed ringback and any messages/message IDs heard.
        – Details about what, if anything, occurred on the receiving end of the call
        and call the FCC at 888-225-5322 or file a complaint at http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm

      2. Get VoIP DIDs from a low-cost area. The only reason you have problems receiving calls is because your phone company asks for a high per-minute fee from companies wanting to send calls to you. Get the calls sent to a company that isn't asking for those high fees and the problem will go away.

  7. For the past year and a half incoming cell calls to my land line vary from no connect, caller ID from all over the country, voice delay, interference and on and on. I have been paying more for my cell as I am assured of receiving calls and who picks up that tab?? So happens that the incoming cell company is Sprint. When my friends call to open up a trouble ticket(as instructed by my phone company), they do not really care. Enough is enough. I have filed with the FCC as well.

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