Congressional Committee Concludes FCC’s Rural Call Completion Actions are Insufficient, Proposes New Legislation

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After several years of urging the FCC to address the issue of rural call completion, Congress is still looking for ways to improve the quality of phone service to rural America. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications Technology convened a hearing earlier this month to continue to examine this issue. Witnesses at the hearing described how rural call completion problems are hurting consumers and business in rural America, including preventing some companies that rely heavily on telephone service - such as call centers - from having their operations in more rural states.

As the Committee noted, “rural consumers experience call quality and call failure issues at a much higher rate than their urban counterparts. The problems seem to occur most commonly in areas of the country where long distance and wireless providers use ‘least cost routers,’ or inexpensive third party intermediate providers, to complete calls while minimizing the cost of call termination charges.”  

The Committee noted that the FCC had taken several actions, including a 2012 declaratory ruling and new rules adopted in 2013, to address the problem. According to the committee, however, the problem persists. Therefore, the Committee proposed and is marking up a new bill, H.R. 2566, titled Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act, to try to fix this on-going issues. If adopted, intermediate carriers, the so-called “least cost routers,” would be required for the first time to be registered with the Commission. The legislation would also require the Commission to impose service quality standards on these previously unregulated providers.  

More information about the hearing and proposed legislation is available on the Committee’s website.