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NECA, associations continue to press for resolution of call completion problems

Call termination issues frustrate rural subscribers was the headline of an Access article in spring 2011. Thus began what has so far been a five-year saga to resolve call completion issues that plague our members and their subscribers. The issues include calls that never reach the called party or calls that complete, but only after lengthy delays and/or with extremely poor voice quality. 

Efforts by the rural industry and others have resulted in regulatory support such as the FCC's 2013 Rural Call Completion Order, which requires certain carriers to periodically report data to quantify the extent of the problem. The FCC has also taken enforcement action against four carriers for failing to complete long distance calls in rural areas. 

And yet, the problems persist. To gauge the current level of rural consumer complaints among our members, we recently conducted a very brief survey that asked, among other things, in what month (if ever) ILEC customers last reported a call completion complaint. Eighty-six percent have received consumer complaints at some time in the past; 70 percent received consumer complaints in the past 12 months and 56 percent of respondents received consumer complaints in the past 3 months. 

Looking to the Hill for a solution 

Efforts on Capitol Hill by NTCA, WTA and NARUC continue to bear fruit, albeit at a slow pace. Most recently, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill originally introduced in March 2015. The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2015 (S. 827) would require intermediate carriers (often called least cost routers) to register with the FCC, require the FCC to establish minimum performance standards for those carriers and require IXCs to only use registered intermediate carriers. The bipartisan bill is ready for a full Senate vote; however, Congress recently adjourned for its annual summer recess and will not be back until after Labor Day.

In the House, Rep. David Young (R-Iowa) introduced a related bill, H.R.2566, in May 2015. Additionally, the House Committee on Appropriations has recently weighed in on the call completion issue and has asked the FCC to report back to the Committee with details on its "efforts to resolve call completion issues and to prevent discriminatory delivery of calls to any area of the country."

So, while there is no denying that Congress moves slowly, it is good to see issues of importance to our members begin to move through the necessary steps in the legislative process.

Filed under August 2016, Tagged with Call completion

Senior Editor - Linda Zinner 
Editor - Rocky Marcelle     

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