A group of U.S. senators has introduced a resolution highlighting the negative impact when calls are not completed to rural areas and asking the Federal Communications Commission to “impose swift and meaningful enforcement actions” against telephone companies that do not complete those calls.
“Telephone communications are vital to keeping rural areas of the United States competitive in the economy, and a low rate of telephone call completion results in economic injury to rural businesses, including farmers, trucking companies and suppliers who have seen thousands of dollars in business lost when telephone calls are not completed,” states Senate resolution 157, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tim Johnson (D- S.D.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and others.
The four-page resolution cites several industry studies about the rural call completion problem, including an April 2012 study that found that 6.4% of calls to rural areas failed but only .5% of calls to urban areas failed, and an October 2012 survey showing a 41% increase in uncompleted calls between March and September of the same year.
The resolution doesn’t discuss why this phenomenon is occurring, but it is widely believed that some long-distance carriers, or the least cost routers that they use to complete calls, are deliberately failing to connect calls to some rural areas in order to avoid paying per-minute access charges on those calls. Access charges are paid to the company that provides phone service to the end user. Those charges tend to be higher in rural areas to help cover the higher cost of delivering service in those areas.
Last year the Federal Communications Commission confirmed that carriers are required to complete calls to all U.S. end users. At that time the commission also set up a process for imposing fines of up to $1.5 million on carriers that fail to complete calls.
Earlier this year Level 3 agreed to pay $975,000 to the U.S. Treasury to settle charges that the company had failed to complete calls to rural areas. But that apparently was not a big deterrent, as Telecompetitor recently has had conversations with rural carriers who say the problem continues.
In addition to asking the FCC to “aggressively pursue” those that violate call completion rules, the new senate resolution says the commission should “move forward with clear, comprehensive and enforceable actions in order to establish a robust and definitive solution to discrimination against telephone users in rural areas of the United States.”
According to the Govtrack.us website, the resolution has a 76% chance of being approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee and a 75% chance of being adopted by the Senate.
The full list of senators sponsoring the resolution includes:
Baldwin, Tammy [D-WI]
Boozman, John [R-AR]
Boxer, Barbara [D-CA]
Enzi, Michael [R-WY]
Fischer, Deb [R-NE]
Grassley, Charles “Chuck” [R-IA]
Johnson, Tim [D-SD]
Leahy, Patrick [D-VT]
Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]
Pryor, Mark [D-AR]
Sanders, Bernard “Bernie” [I-VT]
Thune, John [R-SD]
Image courtesy of flickr user drewleavy.