FCC places NPRM spotlight on rural call completion problems

The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to examine ongoing call completion problems in rural areas, a move that rural telecom groups are claiming as a victory after they hounded regulators in recent years to formally address the issue.

The NPRM was welcomed by rural telecom groups, including the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) and the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), which said they have been appealing to the FCC for two years to get the agency to address rural call completion. The rural associations have repeatedly surveyed their members on the matter, and have found that consumer complaints about call completion problems in their markets are on the rise.

For several years, with the rise in adoption of mobile and VoIP alternatives, voice call quality in general has appeared to be a fading issue as consumers appeared to demonstrate a willingness to put up with occasional problems in exchange for increased convenience or lower prices. That may not be the case in rural areas, where there continues to be reliance on traditional wireline voice to some degree.

The rulemaking also comes after a group of more than 30 senators from both sides of the aisle—led by Sen. Tim Johnson (D - S.D.)—joined the effort to call attention to the issue.

The FCC said it will seek more detailed calling on a recurring basis from long-distance voice and VoIP providers that could help isolate and address rural call completion problems, and will look to do something about false ringing, or "phantom" ring-back signals that lead to the calling party hearing ringing before the call has been properly set up.

For more:
- see this press release

Related articles:
Rural surveys have consistently demonstrated a call completion problem
Small ILECs have worked hard to expand their businesses beyond voice

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