Persistent phone call completion problems in rural communities are creating major inconveniences for families, hurting businesses, and threatening public safety
The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission to establish basic quality standards for providers that transmit voice calls to help ensure businesses, families, and emergency responders can count on phone calls being completed
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Thune (R-SD), and Jon Tester (D-MT) announced that their bipartisan legislation to improve rural call completion has passed the Senate. Persistent phone call completion problems in rural communities are creating major inconveniences for families, hurting businesses, and threatening public safety. The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act would direct the FCC to require providers that transmit voice calls to register with the agency and establish quality standards for transmitting voice calls. These reforms would ensure small businesses, families, and emergency responders in rural America can once again rely upon their telephone calls being completed.
“Minnesotans in rural communities deserve consistent and dependable phone service in order to respond to emergencies, run their businesses, and effectively reach their loved ones,” Klobuchar said. “Today’s vote brings us one step closer to this bipartisan legislation being signed into law to ensure Americans can stay connected regardless of where they live.”
“In many areas of rural South Dakota, whether or not a call will actually get through can be a total gamble,” Thune said. “This legislation is important for the thousands of people in my state and around the country who are seeking more certainty when they are making calls to ensure no life moments, business opportunities, or other important information are missed or not relayed because of a call failure. I thank Sen. Klobuchar for her leadership and hard work on this bill.”
“Rural America is the backbone of this country and providing these communities with a dependable infrastructure will help create good-paying jobs and ensure these areas are open for business,” Tester said. “This legislation will hold the companies accountable who refuse to connect important calls in rural areas like Montana, and give our rural communities and small businesses the reliable phone service they need to compete in our modern economy.”
Last year, following Klobuchar’s efforts, the FCC announced that inContact, a long-distance phone call provider, must pay a $100,000 penalty and implement a compliance plan to prevent the recurrence of issues following a rural call completion investigation in Minnesota. On at least three occasions in 2014 and 2015, a consumer in rural Minnesota complained about problems receiving long distance work phone calls, which led to lost income and fears of losing her job.
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Klobuchar has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve communications infrastructure in rural areas. She is a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus. In 2013, Klobuchar introduced and passed a resolution through the Senate Commerce Committee urging the FCC to take action to solve the problems with the completion of calls in rural areas. After the resolution was passed, the FCC took regulatory and enforcement actions to help curb the problem. At oversight hearings, she has also put repeated pressure on the FCC to ensure the agency continues to make rural call completion issues a priority.
Thune is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee which exercises jurisdiction over legislation related to telecommunications and technology policy.