COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI
Rural Call Completion
, WC Docket No. 13-39.
Most Americans take three things for granted: death, taxes, and a telephone system that works.
You dial a phone number, you hear a ring, and your call is completed. But for an increasing number of
rural Americans, that’s not the case. Calls are dropped. You get a busy signal even when no one is home.
You dial a rural number and hear nothing but dead air for five or six seconds before the line disconnects.
It almost seems like the most appropriate greeting when you call rural America nowadays should be,
“Can you hear me now?”
This is unacceptable. Wherever you live—whether it’s Pittsburg, Kansas, or Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania—and whatever technology you use—whether it’s a landline, a cellphone, or VoIP—when
your number is dialed, your phone should ring shortly thereafter.
Consumers, state commissions, and rural telephone companies have expended a lot of effort
bringing rural call completion problems to our attention. So I’m glad that the FCC is finally taking action
to address this issue. With today’s Order
, the Commission will start collecting data so we can better
understand the difficulties involved. And armed with that information, we will be in a position to take
action against those responsible.
I am especially pleased that my colleagues were willing to incorporate many of my suggestions to
improve the item. By aligning the safe harbor with established best practices and reducing the burden of
compliance, we create stronger incentives for carriers to be good actors.1 By giving affiliated providers
flexibility in recording and reporting their data, we reduce the administrative hassle our rules might
otherwise cause.2 By targeting our recordkeeping on rural calls, we cut the cost of compliance by 90
percent.3 And by promising to reexamine our rules within three years, we ensure that the data isn’t
collected only to itself collect digital dust on a Commission hard drive.4 Instead, the data will be used to
ensure that our rules reflect current marketplace realities—a maxim that should apply to every area under
the agency’s purview.
Of course, today’s action alone is unlikely to solve the call completion problems that have
plagued rural America. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues on future efforts. Many
others are on the beat, too. The staff of the Wireline Competition Bureau, the Enforcement Bureau, and
the Office of General Counsel deserve thanks for getting us this far. The Alliance for
Telecommunications Industry Solutions, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, the National
Exchange Carrier Association, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and many
others are working hard to improve the quality of calls to rural America as well. Through our collective
efforts and aided by the information we will receive as a result of this order, I hope that we will solve the
rural call completion problem as soon as possible.
1 See Order
at paras. 85–97; App. A, Rule 64.2107.
2 See id.
at para. 24; App. A, Rules 64.2103(b); 64.2105(d); 64.2107(d).
3 See id.
at para. 49; App. A, Rule 64.2103(a).
4 See id.
at paras. 105–06.