U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, applauded the committee’s passage of S. 827, the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act. The bill, introduced last year by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), would help correct long-standing problems with call completion failures faced by telecom customers in rural areas, like those throughout South Dakota. Reports of call completion issues have ranged from lengthy periods of dead air to calls not arriving at their destination at all.
The bill was approved by voice vote and now heads to the full Senate for its consideration.
“Any member of the Commerce Committee who represents a rural state will tell you this is an issue that rural constituents have been dealing with for years now,” said Thune. “I had hoped the Federal Communications Commission would have solved this well-recognized problem on its own, but the time has come for us to take legislative action. As chairman of the Commerce Committee, I remain committed to strengthening rural telecommunications services, and this bill would improve telephone service in South Dakota and other rural states.”
S. 827 would create a registry of intermediate providers, which are third-party companies that connect long distance calls between large, national providers and smaller, local providers, and require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish service quality standards. The bill would also prohibit telephone carriers from using an intermediate provider that has not been registered. These measures would create greater accountability for intermediate providers and lead to a more efficient and effective delivery of long distance calls.
In February 2012, in response in part to a letter signed by Thune and nearly 30 of his Senate colleagues, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau clarified the FCC’s prohibition on blocking, choking, reducing, or restricting telephone traffic. The call completion issues persisted, and in October 2013, the FCC unanimously approved an order to improve the FCC’s ability to monitor the delivery of long distance calls to rural areas and aid enforcement action. Despite the FCC’s efforts to resolve these issues, problems persist with call completion in rural areas.