Receiving long-distance calls in rural areas can be challenging

More and more local, traditional telephone companies are receiving complaints that their customers often can’t receive long-distance telephone calls from some areas. The issue has become so widespread over the last five years that it has even got the attention of the United States Congress. In 2018, Congress passed legislation designed to force long-distance providers to improve their reliability.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency authorized by Congress to remedy these issues, the problem stems from long-distance carriers and wireless providers deciding how to complete calls based on cost rather than reliability.   They often contract with third-party service providers to make the connections using the ‘least cost method’ and all too often the lowest priced route is not reliable, resulting in poor voice quality, “dead-air” or in many cases not even connecting.

“It’s frustrating for subscribers located in rural and small-town America when they hear that someone tried to call them but couldn’t get through” said John Bartz, General Manager of Richland-Grant Telephone Cooperative and LaValle Telephone Cooperative. “Even more frustrating to them is the problem needs to be reported by the person making the call to their provider rather than by the person that failed to get the call.   When troubleshooting these problems, the technical staff must basically watch the call leave the callers phone, see where it goes and follow it all along the route to see where things break down.”

Michelle Harwick, Director of Subscriber Services at Genuine Telecom, said, “It’s even more complicated by privacy laws; we can’t call the provider on behalf of the calling person and ask them to look into the issue.   Federal privacy laws prohibit telephone carriers from doing much of anything with an account, including talking about phone trouble unless they can verify the person they are talking to is the actual account owner or has been previously authorized in writing.”

Rural businesses often don’t know how many calls they aren’t receiving unless they get an email from the caller or call a happens to go through and customers can tell them about the experience. Usually, once a business learns they aren’t receiving some calls they reach out their provider and expect them to fix the issue which is almost impossible. “Failed calls are not reaching the local providers; like Genuine Tel, Richland Grant and LaValle either so we have no way to backtrack. You have to start where the call is made from and that could be anywhere in the world,” added Bartz.

The FCC is trying to address the issue by implementing rules requiring any entity that provides call routing to register with the FCC. They are also requiring long-distance carriers to monitor and promptly remedy call completion issues, as well as, publish on their websites contact information for rural call completion issues.

The FCC also encourages people having issues completing long-distance calls to have the calling subscriber report details of the problem to their long-distance or wireless provider. Those numbers should appear directly on the persons monthly bill. Providers will need the caller’s number, the called number and the date and time the attempted calls or problem calls were made.   Businesses and individuals upon learning they are not receiving calls should also encourage the caller to report the issue.

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Contact Us

Genuine Telecom
430 W Union St. Suite 3
PO Box 409
Richland Center, WI 53581
608-647-2345 or:
608-649-6060 (Fax)


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