rural call completion problems

Q: What is the problem?

A: In recent years, rural telephone companies across the country, including many in Michigan, sometimes experience "call completion" problems. Because rural areas traditionally have higher costs due to lower population density, some of the rates that rural providers charge to other carriers for completing calls are higher than those in more urban areas. Certain providers that route the long distance calls do not wish to incur these higher charges so they either refuse to transport calls on certain rural telephone companies' networks or they route the call in a way to try minimizing the cost. "Least-cost routing" may be cheaper for the company routing the call, but it may also lead to poorer service quality for customers. Many complainants mistakenly put the blame on the rural local exchange provider that is terminating the call when the issue actually arises from the route the call takes before it gets to the rural provider that connects the call to the customer. Some issues reported by customers include:

  • The calling party will hear ringing but the called party hears nothing
  • The called party's phone rings but hears dead air when the call is answered
  • Extremely poor quality on answerable calls
  • The caller ID display is inaccurate or misleading

Rural call completion diagram

Q: What should I do if calls aren't being completed?

A: First and foremost, contact your provider(s) to let them know you are experiencing problems; make sure to provide details. Your provider will not know there is an issue unless you make it known to them. Additionally, if you know the person calling you whose calls are not going through correctly, have them contact their provider to make a complaint. Your provider(s) should work with you to try resolving the issue. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Complaints can be filed online at fcc.gov/complaints or by calling 888- CALL-FCC. Your provider may be able to help you file a complaint with the FCC. You can also contact the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) for assistance with filing your FCC complaint by calling 800 -292-9555 or via the internet at http://www.michigan.gov/mpsc/.

Q: If people are aware of the problem, what is being done to address the issue?

A: The problem often involves service providers that are not traditional telecommunications providers, such as wireless providers or companies like Magic Jack. The MPSC does not have regulatory authority over these providers. The FCC does have authority over these types of providers and has taken a series of actions in recent years to address problems in the completion of long-distance telephone calls to rural areas. Although rural call completion complaints to the FCC have declined as a result of these actions, the agency continues to receive complaints from both consumers and rural carriers. We recommend that you work either independently, with your provider, or with the MPSC, to file a complaint with the FCC.

This information and more can be found at: http://www.michigan.gov/mpsc/0,4639,7-159-16372-268981 --,00.html.