Rural Call Completion

Have you ever found out a friend or family member tried to reach you by long distance but the call didn't complete? Maybe it rang on your end, but you couldn't hear the caller's voice once you picked up. Maybe the calling party heard it ringing on their end, but your phone was silent the whole time. If the call did go through, maybe you both struggled with poor voice quality. If you've experienced any of these frustrating situations, you're not alone. In fact, rural consumers in 36 states have experienced the problem.

The issue is referred to in the telecommunications industry as "call completion" or "call termination" problems. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that nationwide, there was a staggering 2,000 percent increase in the number of these complaints between April 2010 and March 2011. You should know that the issue does not reside with rural Independent Telecommunications Companies or INS.

Why the problem exits

Because less populated rural areas traditionally are more expensive to serve, it can cost long distance carriers who help route calls more to complete the calls. Certain providers do not want to incur these higher charges and therefore they route/pass the call in a "hot potato" fashion in order to minimize the cost. "Least-cost routing" may be cheaper for the carrier routing the call, but it may also lead to poorer service quality for consumers. Calls may be dropped as these upstream providers try to avoid the payment of per-minute inter-carrier compensation. In the process of passing these "hot potato" calls, rural telecommunications providers may never receive them on their network.

What you can do

Report the problem. As a consumer, your best action is to report each "call completion" incident. For incoming call problems, talk to the party originating the call and encourage them to report it. On the other hand, if you have had problems with outgoing calls, please contact your telecommunications provider and they will help report the problem. 

What the industry is doing

Iowa's Independent Telecommunications Companies take every opportunity to find out why calls fail and try to correct the problem. They and INS are working with the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) and the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO)  to help bring resolution to this issue. Ultimately, the FCC has regulatory authority over long-distance telephone service providers and has implemented penalities for non-compliance.