The Call Completion Conundrum

Problems with the completion of calls to rural carriers have become a “nationwide epidemic”.  That is how representatives of telecommunications groups characterized the difficulties plaguing rural telcos for the last year when they met with the FCC Pricing Policy Division and Enforcement Bureau on March 10.

The group included representatives of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO), and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA), as well as some of their member companies. They outlined four problem scenarios to the FCC, but there are more. The problem calls may come from wireline, wireless, interconnected VoIP providers and VoIP systems.

  • Calls that ring for the calling party, but not at all or on a delayed basis for the customer of the rural carrier
  • Calling parties who receive incorrect or misleading message interceptions before the call reaches the rural local exchange carrier (LEC) or the tandem switch through which the rural LEC receives traffic
  • Calls that appear to loop between routing providers but never reach the rural carrier or its serving tandem
  • Incorrect caller ID that displays to called parties

The call completion problem is well-known to Kingdom management and staff. Customer Service Representatives regularly receive complaints from frustrated customers whose calls simply won’t go through, and management has struggled to find a solution with limited success.

“We often get blamed for the problems by the originating carrier. Our investigations show otherwise,” said General Manager Tom Young. “We do not take this issue lightly. It is a vital for elderly who live alone, as well as affecting businesses and even law enforcement.”

It is difficult to identify the source of these problems when they occur since they arise with calls placed by customers of other carriers, which may never reach the local telephone company network at all. Problems are most often identified only when the calling party communicates the concern to the called party, and then only if the called party in turn reports this concern to its local telephone company. There are a variety of platforms on which the troubles arise, and a number of barriers to “troubleshooting” problems on other carriers’ networks.

For most rural telephone companies, the most successful method of resolving the issues that occur has been to encourage the calling party to file a trouble ticket with the originating carrier. When the local telephone company tries to find out the calling party’s long distance or wireless carrier and report the problem to them on behalf of the caller, the carrier rarely responds. After all, the local telephone company isn’t their customer! Nearly half of all complaints have never been resolved or only fixed temporarily.

The rural groups said their fact-finding supports the conclusion that the problems appear to arise from how originating carriers choose to set up the signaling and routing of their calls. The rural groups did not speculate on whether other carriers are deliberately blocking calls or how they are doing it.

At present, the situation is still unresolved. The rural telco groups urged the FCC to take several steps to address this problem, including:

  • Ensuring that providers do not initiate or permit actions that result in calls failing to terminate or to be choked, restricted or disguised
  • Affirming that where a provider knows, or should reasonably know, that calls will fail to complete or suffer in delivery, the provider should be responsible for its acts or omissions

The rural associations will continue to seek solutions. They plan to survey their membership, send letters to the Enforcement Bureau, and, hopefully, trigger an independent investigation of the problem.

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