On May 17th, NECA, NTCA, OPASTCO and WTA released the findings of a joint call completion test project conducted to determine the frequency with which calls to rural areas are being successfully terminated.
The project found that despite recent efforts to restore faith in the integrity of the public switched telephone network, rural consumers continue to encounter significant problems receiving calls. While a comparison of recent test call results with those from the Rural Associations’ September 2011 test call project shows a modest improvement, call completion problems remain at an alarming and unacceptable level.
The current study found that call failure rates were 13 times higher to test lines in rural areas compared to those in non-rural areas. The occurrence of poor voice quality or “delayed setup” was also significantly higher in rural areas. Perhaps the most striking finding, however, was that nearly a third of rural test lines experienced completion problems on more than 20% of incoming calls.
Test calls were initiated and documented by volunteers in both rural and non-rural locations using a wide variety of interexchange carriers, wireless service providers, and VoIP services. More than 7,400 test calls were made April 9 to April 13 to 115 rural and non-rural test lines set up in 40 states.
The test call project was conducted to gauge the current scope of rural call completion issues that continue to threaten public safety, commerce and the basic ability of friends and family to communicate between rural and more urban areas. While the associations applaud recent actions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to examine these issues—including the creation of a Call Completion Task Force and the adoption of a February Declaratory Ruling advising providers of potential liability for call failures—this recent test call project confirms that this nationwide epidemic remains a threat to public safety, commerce and basic communications between Americans. Accordingly, the associations renew their calls for the agency to take clear and unmistakable steps to enforce its rules and to ensure that routing practices by originating carriers and service providers produce high quality, reliable call completion results in all areas of the country.
“While we’ve seen a slight improvement, rural call completion issues are still at unacceptable levels,” said Jeff Dupree, NECA vice president of Government Relations. “Without additional and sustained action by the FCC, including enforcement action where appropriate, further necessary improvements may not be realized and any recent gains may in fact be lost.”
“The results of this project clearly show that much more remains to be done to resolve rural call completion issues in the wake of the FCC’s February ruling,” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. “In presenting these results to the commission and to the public, we are once again drawing attention to the critical need for strict enforcement of the commission’s rules and a steadfast solution to this epidemic affecting the reliability of our country’s communications network.”
“The data illustrate what rural carriers already know,” OPASTCO President John Rose said. “The rural call completion problem remains largely unabated, and it appears this will remain the case until firm enforcement action is taken against those who perpetuate it by design or negligence.”
“The data presented to the FCC today validates what we continue to hear from our members and their customers – the call completion problem continues to persist,” said Kelly Worthington, executive vice president of WTA. “Rural residents, businesses and communities are being adversely affected by the lack of calls being completed and that those calls that are being completed still have a high level of poor call-quality. The FCC should engage in enforcement proceedings against offending carriers to begin correcting this problem,” said Worthington.