The latest attempt to stop problems with calls not going through to rural areas comes from two U.S. senators, who have introduced the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act. The legislation, introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) would direct the FCC to establish basic quality standards for providers that transmit voice calls, according to a press release.
“Chronic phone call completion problems cause headaches for families trying to stay connected, hurt small businesses trying to reach customers, and endanger citizens trying to make urgent calls,” said Klobuchar in the release. “Our bill would set commonsense standards for providers to help ensure families, businesses and emergency responders have access to the reliable phone service they need.”
According to the release, the bill also would require providers to register with the FCC. This would appear to be a reference to the intermediary providers known as “least cost routers” who have been fingered as a key cause of call completion problems, as retail service providers already are registered with the commission.
Rural Call Completion Problems
Problems with calls not going through to rural areas were first recognized several years ago. Since then the FCC has ruled that carriers must complete calls to rural areas, and several service providers – including Level 3, Windstream and Verizon – have been fined as a result of investigations into their call handling practices. But the problem has been difficult to solve.
It is widely believed that some providers deliberately avoid completing calls to rural areas as a means of avoiding per-minute access charges, which are higher on calls to rural areas to help cover the higher cost of delivering service to those areas. Those charges are targeted to be phased out, but that process will take several years.
Rural call completion has been a key issue for Klobuchar and Tester. Tester cosponsored similar legislation last Congress. And Klobuchar previously introduced and helped pass a resolution urging the FCC to take action on the problem.
News about the proposed legislation comes as Verizon prepares to conduct a rural call completion workshop – an action the company agreed to take as part of its settlement with the FCC. The workshop is scheduled for April 22nd in Washington DC. The company said it will post an archive of the workshop on its website.