Phone calls were once carried over copper wires which formed a single circuit from end to end," the state Public Service Commission says on its website, Barrett writes. "Those days are gone. Today, the network is almost completely digital, with calls reduced to bits and sent over a massive web of links provided by telephone, cable, cellular and fixed wireless providers. Now, a caller to a rural number often may get a busy signal or a recorded message inaccurately saying the number is no longer in service. Other times, it sounds to the caller as if the number is ringing, but the rural customer's phone never rings or the call is dropped after a couple of rings."
The Federal Communications Commission has taken action, Barrett notes. In June, Matrix Telecom Inc. of Irving, Tex., agreed to pay $875,000 to resolve a call-completion investigation while Level 3 Communications LLC paid $975,000 in March and Windstream Corp. $2.5 million in February in similar instances. Some critics argue that those fines aren't big enough to make the carriers pay more for better services.
"One solution could come from legislation, introduced by U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), that would create an FCC registry for the companies responsible for routing long-distance calls," Barrett writes. "It also would set service quality standards for the carriers." (Read more)