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Official FCC Blog

January, 2012

Back to the Future – Another Amazing Trip to CES

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
January 24, 2012 - 05:30 AM

I kicked off another New Year by once again being the envy of my high tech gadget friends back home. For the third time in a row, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from January 10-12. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which is responsible for organizing the event, needs to bottle and sell their secret for hosting a successful event year after year.

My visit began on Tuesday afternoon accompanied by Peter Slen, host of the CSPAN program, The Communicators. During a tour of a few exhibits, what intrigued me most was how energy efficiency initiatives, though not much discussed in marketing CES, were becoming more prominent on the floor. This is particularly appropriate and significant because as these CES shows forecast the increase in demand for advanced electronics, naturally this would also lead to an increase in the demand for electrical and other energy sources. Peter and I also spoke about how these incredible innovations are opening up a host of options and opportunities for those with physical and cognitive challenges.

Afterwards, Julie Kearney, Brian Markwalter, and other members of the CEA staff were gracious enough to take me on a tour of some of the exhibitors that had developed mobile health services and applications. It seemed as if CEA devoted an entire floor in the South Hall to these new technologies. These exciting applications ranged from monitors that help those who are suffering from difficult chronic diseases to high tech treadmills and other gym apparatus for those who want to meet and exceed the work out challenges they set for themselves. It is clear that the communications, information management, and health care industries are collaborating and leveraging mobile technological advances to improve the lives of so many people.

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New Year Solutions for Rural Call Completion Problems

by Sharon Gillett and Jamie Barnett, Chiefs of the Wireline Competition Bureau and Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
January 5, 2012 - 10:49 AM

Rural “call completion” problems are a serious issue that the Commission has been grappling with over the past few months.  Local phone providers in rural areas have reported an alarming increase in complaints from customers that long distance calls and faxes are not reaching them. Other complaints include poor call quality and incorrect caller ID information, showing perhaps an unfamiliar local number for a long-distance call.  It’s a persistent and ongoing concern affecting 80% of rural carriers recently surveyed by a rural telephone company trade association on the issue.

This can have dire consequences.  Small businesses lose customers who get frustrated when their calls don’t go through.  Urgent long distance calls from friends or family are misidentified on caller ID and not answered.  Prescriptions faxed to a pharmacy fail to transmit. 

The issue is complicated, but in a nutshell, the problem appears to be occurring in rural areas where long distance carriers normally pay higher-than-average charges to the local telephone company to complete calls.  These charges are part of the decades-old system of “access” charges that help pay for the cost of rural networks.  To minimize these charges, some long-distance carriers use third-party “least-cost routers,” which attempt to connect calls to their destination at the lowest cost possible. Sometimes, however, the calls appear not to be connecting at all.

The good news is that new FCC rules – which took effect on Dec. 29 – will provide both short and long-term solutions to rural call completion problems.  These rules are part of an Order the FCC adopted in October making broader reforms to the access charge system, called intercarrier compensation, or ICC.

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