A years-long battle with poor and unpredictable phone call quality in rural Minnesota could potentially be nearing improvement with the help of legislation backed by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Klobuchar, along with others more directly affected by the call issues, discussed solutions Wednesday morning at the East Grand Forks City Hall. Meeting participants made it clear that the problem won't be corrected without regulatory influence.
Rep. Collin Peterson, East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss and rural Minnesota telephone company representatives were in attendance.
Delayed, dropped and poor quality phone calls have been a significant issue for years in rural areas around the state.
Issues are largely due to big phone companies who use unreliable routers to connect to rural areas. They usually affect calls involving a landline.
A bill, which has been introduced, will require the Federal Communications Commission to establish basic quality measures for phone companies and contracted routers will have to register to ensure they are providing quality calls.
"We're trying to get more authors and get it through the committee. The fact that we have a house companion bill is good, sometimes you just have a Senate bill," Klobuchar said. "So that's a good sign and that's a Republican sponsor so that's bipartisanship."
She also pointed out that the FCC has investigated and fined large phone companies that are contracting unreliable routers, which is a good start.
Each telephone company representative had the chance to introduce himself and share how the faulty calls have affected his business and the people in his community. The majority of those people have been dealing with these issues for years and years, and made sure to thank Klobuchar for the work she's doing.
Wednesday marked the start of Klobuchar's five-day "Grand County Tour."
Starting in East Grand Forks and ending in Grand Marais, she'll visit 15 counties to "highlight economic development opportunities in rural Minnesota areas," according to a press release.
Klobucher continues her tour today throughout Minnesota in Roseau, Rainer, Ericsburg and Bemidji.
A call about Cuba
Shortly after her meeting on call completion issues, Klobuchar held a press call about the reopening of American and Cuban embassies.
Klobuchar is very much in favor of benefiting local agriculture through a working relationship with Cuba.
The U.S. and Cuba on Wednesday formally agreed to restore diplomatic ties that had been severed for 54 years, fulfilling a pledge made six months ago by the former Cold War enemies.
Klobuchar has introduced major bipartisan legislation to lift the current embargo, which will allow more U.S. goods to be exported to Cuba, according to a press release.
"The idea is that we've had 50-some years of a failed policy that hasn't worked. People want to visit their country and we also want to sell American goods there," she said. "They have a brand new port that I visited there a few months ago, and it's just waiting for goods. And we don't want them to be Chinese goods, we want them to be things from Minnesota and North Dakota."
Klobuchar said this is an important opportunity for both local agriculture and computer companies like Microsoft.
The White House believes there is strong support among Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress for lifting the embargo on Cuba, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday on Air Force One.
Reuters Media contributed to this report.