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US Senators write to FCC over call problems in rural areas

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Twenty-four US Senators from across the country recently wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to address the problem of dropped, incomplete and poor quality phone calls to rural America.

The senators called “on the FCC to continue investigating the issue, which is preventing a growing number of calls from reaching customers of rural telephone carriers, with complaints having increased a staggering 2000%”.

“As you know, representatives for rural carriers have reported a staggering 2000% increase in complaints between April 2010 and March 2011 from consumers who have experienced calls that fail to complete, are delayed, have poor voice quality, lack correct caller ID information, or where the originating carrier simply refuses to place calls to certain rural areas.  This problem, commonly referred to as ‘call termination’, ‘dropped calls’, or ‘call completion’, is widespread and has been reported by local exchange companies in 36 states,” the letter, addressed to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, states.

The letter argues that despite the growing reliance on high-speed Internet and mobile communications it is important to recognize that many Americans still on their traditional landline phones to engage in commerce, communicate with friends and family, and call for emergency assistance.

“Nearly two thirds of American households have landline phones, and 62% of Americans say the service is a necessity. Unfortunately, this service has become less reliable in certain rural areas due to a call origination, routing, and termination problem that is preventing the delivery of a growing number of calls to customers of rural local exchange carriers,” the letter states.

The failure to complete calls is having a negative effect on local businesses and people throughout rural America and also presents a serious safety concern for affected consumers, the letter warns.

“Small business owners who are affected by this problem are rightfully frustrated and demand a solution, noting that in this challenging economic climate, businesses rely on reliable telephone service and cannot afford to lose a business opportunity because of a dropped call,” the letter states.

The senators argued that incomplete calls raise a “significant public safety concern” which if not addressed could yield devastating outcomes. They wrote that there are a lot of unanswered questions despite efforts by rural local exchange companies, state regulatory commissions, and telecommunications trade associations to identify the cause of this problem.

The letter also urged the commission to take necessary actions to protect consumers and ensure that widespread and frequent occurrence of undelivered calls to rural areas is addressed.

Senators who jointly wrote the letter: Senator Tim Johnson, Senator John Thune, Senator Kent Conrad, Senator Ben Nelson, Senator John Hoeven, Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Mark Kirk, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Daniel Coats, Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Bernard Sanders, Senator Jon Tester, Senator Max Baucus, Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Mike Crapo, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Mark Udall, Senator Mike Johanns, Senator Al Franken, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator James Risch.

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