Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rural telecoms ask FCC to probe calling problems

Four rural telecommunications associations are asking the Federal Communications Commission for an investigation into declining telephone service to rural customers. This request comes following an increase in reported calling problems from 78 in April 2010 to 1,811 in March 2011, D.R. Stewart of the Tulsa World reports.

"We are running into problems on call-termination issues in rural parts of the state," Bob Stafford, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Telephone Association, which represents more than 40 rural telephone companies, told Stewart. "A person will call from out of state to a rural area in Oklahoma, and the calling party hears the phone ring and ring, but the call is not getting to the local telephone company."

In the letter to the associations share stories of rural customers who learn of the uncompleted calls only after their friends, family, or business associates reached them through e-mail or cell phone and several "small businesses losing tens of thousands of dollars in sales because their customers can't reach them," Stewart reports. The letter says some reported calls never went through or the call rang several times with no answer. Some customers even reported "their caller ID devices display unintelligible information" or they received a false message about the failure of the rural local exchange carrier.

Unsure of where the problem lies, the FCC plans to start its investigation with the originating carriers, Stewart reports. "There are some suspicions that when the calls go from more traditional technologies to VoIP [Voice Internet Protocol] technology, there may be issues there, Bob Gnapp, director of demand assurance and network analysis for the National Exchange Carriers Association, told Stewart. "We certainly know the scope of the problem, where the calls originate, but yet it's difficult to say with any assurance exactly what is happening in the middle of the telephone route."

Joining the association in the request to the FCC were the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies and the Western Telecommunications Alliance. (Read more)

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