Minnesota and Nebraska senators join together on rural call issue despite hard-fought Gopher-Cornhusker game over the weekend

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Deb Fischer (R-NE) announced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has unanimously approved an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) at today’s open meeting with the agency’s commissioners. The decision to take action to address rural call completion problems is good news for rural economies.       

“Call completion problems continue to hurt small businesses and families in rural communities across Minnesota that depend on reliable phone service,” said Klobuchar. “This new order is a step in the right direction, and I will continue to work to make sure all Minnesotans can make calls to friends, families, and customers regardless of where they live.”

“This is a positive step forward, and I hope it will give the Commission additional tools to stop the bad actors failing to complete calls to rural areas,” said Johnson. “When calls fail to complete, it hurts rural small businesses and creates a serious public safety concern. These problems have gone on for far too long, and those breaking the rules need to be held accountable.”    

"The FCC's approval of this rule is another important step toward improving the performance of long-distance calls, particularly to rural areas,” said Fischer. “Promoting a 21st century infrastructure is a core duty of the federal government, which is why I have been working with my colleagues across the aisle on a resolution calling attention to these ongoing communications challenges. I am pleased that the FCC is taking similar initiative, and I look forward to working together on this important issue for Nebraskans in both rural and urban communities."

The new rules will improve the agency’s ability to investigate call completion problems and take immediate steps to improve performance of long distance calls. It also prohibits the practice of “false ringing” when an audible ring is transmitted to the caller’s handset before the call has reached the terminating network.  The new rules come after the Senators introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for the agency to take action.  Additionally, 36 Senators sent a letter to the Commission in December 2012 that called for the agency to strengthen its investigation by requiring providers to collect and retain data that can be used to detect which providers are failing to properly complete calls to rural areas.

This summer, Klobuchar, Johnson and Fischer introduced and passed a resolution through the Senate Commerce Committee urging the FCC to take further action to solve the problems with the completion of calls in rural areas. In December 2012, Klobuchar and Johnson wrote a letter that was signed by 34 other senators urging the Commission to monitor the practice of least cost routing and expedite its investigation by requiring providers to collect and retain data that can be used to detect which providers are failing to properly complete calls to rural areas. This helped lead to the release of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed new steps to strengthen the FCC’s investigation of those providing discriminatory telephone service to rural customers. 

The Report and Order that was approved today finalizes some of the proposals from the NPRM, and the FNPRM proposes additional steps to address the call termination problems.  Earlier this year, the FCC reached a settlement with phone carrier Level 3 Communications that will require the company to meet vigorous, verifiable call completion standards, provide extensive records to assist FCC enforcement, as well as make a $975,000 voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury.