Recent Press Releases

Jan 19 2012

Johnson Leads Push to Fix Undelivered Call Problem in Rural Areas

Sioux Falls, SD – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today rallied Senators from across the country to join his efforts to fix the problem of dropped, incomplete and poor quality phone calls to rural America. Johnson and 23 of his colleagues called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to continue investigating this issue, which is preventing a growing number of calls from reaching customers of rural telephone carriers. In recent years, complaints have increased a staggering 2,000 percent.

“The use of mobile phones is greatly expanding, but the large number of folks who still use landline phones shouldn’t have to suffer with poor service. I have heard from many South Dakotans who have continually experienced call disruptions and they are rightfully frustrated,” Johnson said.  “This problem is detrimental to local businesses and to the safety of individuals in rural America and we need the FCC to get to the bottom of it.”

Nearly two thirds of households in the U.S. have landline phones. Additionally, rural small businesses rely on reliable telephone service and cannot afford to lose business because of call disruption, especially in this difficult economic climate.

From April 2010 through March 2011, the number of complaints increased by 2,000 percent from individuals who 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 is affecting rural communities across the country and has been reported in 36 states.

Johnson has been a leader in Congress calling for the FCC to fix this issue. Last September, Johnson contacted the FCC to demand action to protect rural consumers. Shortly after, the FCC announced the creation of the Rural Call Completion Task Force and held a workshop to examine the extent of and reasons for the call completion problems. While Johnson applauds these efforts, the problem still exists and Johnson believes more oversight and continued action by the FCC is needed.

Johnson led a bipartisan coalition of Senators from across the country in sending a letter to the FCC today. A copy of the letter is below:

 

January 18, 2012

 

The Honorable Julius Genachowski

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20554

 

Dear Chairman Genachowski,

 

As reliance on high-speed Internet and mobile communication continues to grow, it is important to recognize that many Americans still rely on their traditional landline phone 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 percent 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.  

 

As you know, representatives for rural carriers have reported a staggering 2,000 percent 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 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.  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.  Additionally, incomplete calls raise a significant public safety concern that could yield devastating outcomes if this problem is not effectively and promptly addressed. 

 

Despite efforts by rural local exchange companies, state regulatory commissions, and telecommunications trade associations to identify the cause of this problem, there remain many unanswered questions.  We appreciate the Commission's creation of the Rural Call Completion Task Force and the workshop that was conducted with key stakeholders on October 18, 2011 to examine the extent of and reasons for the call completion problem.  We also hope that the industry can continue to work with the Commission to examine the technical problems and help develop meaningful and effective solutions.  We remain concerned, however, that this problem will continue to persist and negatively affect rural consumers without continued action and oversight by your agency.    

 

We respectfully request that you update us about the Commission’s efforts to identify the cause of this problem.  Should your investigation reveal that responsible parties are engaging in activities that violate the Communications Act or a Commission rule or order, we believe it is critical that the Commission takes the necessary actions to protect consumers and ensure that the widespread and frequent occurrence of undelivered calls to rural areas is addressed.  We appreciate your attention to our concerns regarding this problem and look forward to your response. 

 

Sincerely,

 

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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