FCC establishes new rules to overcome rural call completion issues

The FCC is addressing service providers' need to resolve long-distance call completion in rural areas by requiring them to record, retain and report rural call completion data.

This latest order, which follows a notice of proposed rulemaking the regulator issued in February, is designed to get access to more information the FCC needs to investigate and eliminate the problem and provide incentives to operators that improve their service.

Service providers can also use this information to improve long-distance call completion themselves. It will also allow state regulators to better monitor performance and identify problem areas.

A number of rural businesses have told the FCC that they lost customers who could not call in orders, while families attempting to contact elderly relatives have worried when they hear a ring but no one picks up on the other end because the call never actually went through.

In particular, the new rules mandate that service providers can't transmit an audible ring to a caller's handset when the phone on the other end of a call is not ringing. The regulator said that this means callers won't prematurely hang up, while service providers will get better information about call performance.

This new measure was praised by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), which said it had been asking the FCC to address the call completion issue for nearly three years.  

"We are grateful to Chairwoman Clyburn for making resolution of this epidemic a priority during her tenure, to Commissioners Pai and Rosenworcel for pressing for common-sense and effective solutions, and to the agency's staff for their hard work in seeking answers to these issues," said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, in a prepared statement. "There is still much work to be done to ensure that no consumer will be cut off from critical communications, but NTCA is hopeful that this order will help to minimize consumer confusion by precluding false ringing, provide immediate incentives for providers to better manage completion of their calls, give the FCC a useful tool in identifying bad actors for enforcement, and serve as a springboard for further conversations about what else remains to be done to achieve truly universal and seamless connectivity."

For more:
- see the release

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Rural telecom groups: Call completion needs improvement in rural areas