Rural call completion has been passed in both the Senate and Congress and is awaiting President Trump’s signature. The legislation aims to ensure that calls go through to rural areas by establishing a registry of “intermediate providers” that complete calls for other carriers, by requiring retail service providers to use only registered intermediate providers and by requiring intermediate providers to meet minimum service quality standards.
“Folks who live and work in rural communities . . . don’t always enjoy the luxury of something as simple as phone call completion, a task most people in more urban areas might take for granted,” said Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and one of several sponsors of the bi-partisan legislation, in a press release about the legislation.
The rural call completion legislation would direct the FCC to establish the registry of intermediate providers and to make it publicly available on the commission’s website. It would also be the commission’s job to set the service quality rules.
Rural Call Completion Legislation
For years, people in rural areas have complained that they have not received calls placed to them – a situation that has been attributed in many cases to intermediate providers contracted by retail providers to terminate calls made by the retail providers’ customers. By failing to complete calls to rural areas, the intermediate providers can avoid paying terminating access charges to the carrier serving the rural call recipient. Those charges tend to be higher in rural areas to cover the higher cost of delivering service in those areas.
The FCC in the past has taken a range of actions aimed at curtailing these problems, including adopting a ruling confirming that carriers must complete calls to all areas, requiring carriers to maintain call completion records, and fining carriers for non-compliance.
Previous legislation aimed at establishing the intermediate carrier registry and call standards failed to pass, but it appears that legislators will be successful this time.
“Final passage of this NTCA supported legislation is a critical step on the long road to resolving the call quality and reliability issues that have plagued rural Americans for years,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Assocation, in a press release. “We hope implementation of this measure will bring greater transparency to the call routing marketplace and sends a bipartisan message about the importance of on-going efforts to solve call completion problems that threaten public safety, businesses and the general well-being of countless Americans.