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DA 13-1605
July 19, 2013
Enforcement Advisory No. 2013-6FCC ENFORCEMENT ADVISORY

Long Distance Providers Must Take Consumer Complaints
about Rural Call Completion Problems Seriously
Perfunctory Responses or Unexplained Denials of Responsibility
Violate Commission Rules

The Enforcement Bureau is issuing this Enforcement Advisory to
remind providers of long distance services of their obligations
when served by the Commission with an informal complaint about
rural call completion. A provider served with an informal com-
plaint in connection with a telephone call originating on its
long distance network must submit a written response explaining
that the provider: (a) has satisfied the complaint, or (b) is
unwilling or unable to do so. A provider does not satisfy its
obligation to respond by claiming, for example, that it has no
duty to investigate the problem because the complainant is not
the provider's customer.

For the past several years consumers have reported problems with
long distance calls to rural areas completing successfully.
Based on our experience in investigating this issue, rural call
completion problems often arise from the manner in which origi-
nating long distance providers route their calls. Often, rural
consumers who are not customers of the originating provider file
informal complaints with the Commission about this problem.
These rural consumers are harmed when calls do not reach them:
businesses lose orders, medical professionals are unable to reach
patients, and family members cannot check on loved ones.

The Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB)
routinely serves these informal complaints on the providers in-
volved in the calls in question, including the long distance
provider for the calling party. CGB includes with each complaint
a cover letter directing the provider to address each allegation
raised in the complaint and to describe actions the provider has
taken to address the complaint.

Too often, long distance providers submit responses to these in-
formal complaints that are wholly inadequate. For example, some
long distance providers assert that they have no obligation to
investigate the issues identified in the complaint because the
complainant is not their customer, or assert, without any expla-
nation, that the called party's rural telephone company is the
source of any problems. These responses inhibit the Commission's
ability to investigate and remedy rural call completion issues
and are deficient under the Commission's Rules.

Going forward, the FCC may take enforcement action against
providers that submit such patently deficient responses to infor-
mal complaints. Resolving rural call completion problems is a
top priority of the Commission. Practices that result in rural
call completion problems threaten commerce, public safety, and
the ability of consumers, businesses, and public health and safe-
ty officials in rural America to access and use a reliable net-
work, making remediation of these practices, and the information
needed to do so, critically important.

What are the symptoms of rural call completion problems? Callers
to rural areas may experience the following: call attempts that
do not complete when dialed, excessive call setup delay, pro-
longed ringing (either before the called phone actually rings or
when it never rings at all), inaccurate or misleading intercept
messages, as well as poor call quality and inaccurate caller ID
on completed calls.

What laws apply? Carriers that allow rural call completion prob-
lems to persist may be liable for a violation of Section 201 of
the Act. In 2012, the Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau
issued a declaratory ruling clarifying that "it is an unjust and
unreasonable practice in violation of section 201 of the Act for
a carrier that knows or should know that it is providing degraded
service to certain areas to fail to correct the problem or to
fail to ensure that intermediate providers, least-cost routers,
or other entities acting for or employed by the carrier are per-
forming adequately. This is particularly the case when the prob-
lems are brought to the carrier's attention by customers, rate-
of-return carriers serving rural areas, or others, and the carri-
er nevertheless fails to take corrective action that is within
its power."

Providers must address consumer complaints about rural call com-
pletion or explain why they are unable or refuse to do so. Sec-
tion 208 authorizes "[a]ny person . . . complaining of anything
done or omitted to be done by any common carrier . . . in contra-
vention of the provisions" of the Act to file a complaint with
the Commission. Thus, "any" consumer may file an informal com-
plaint against a carrier even if he is not a customer of that
carrier. Rule 1.717 requires a carrier served with an informal
complaint to explain in writing that the carrier has satisfied
the complaint or is unable or refuses to do so. Consumer com-
plaints about telephone service are processed through CGB, which
serves the complaint on the provider and directs it to "submit a
separate response to each complaint that specifically addresses
each allegation raised in the complaint, and describes any action
that your company has taken to satisfy each allegation." CGB
further directs providers served with complaints concerning call
completion or call quality to "include a narrative explanation as
to how [the provider] handles telecommunications traffic directed
to the local telephone service provider serving each of the
called locations."

What are some examples of unacceptable responses or denials of
responsibility? The Commission has received many responses to
consumer complaints that do not satisfy Section 208 or the Com-
mission's Rules. Responses to informal complaints about rural
call completion show continued organizational indifference to the
problem and unwillingness to investigate such complaints even
though the complaint has identified an originating number on the
provider's own long distance network. Responses to such com-
plaints have included:

* "[This] is not [our] complaint. Please redirect to [the rural
telephone company] for an accurate completion of this case."

* "This is a matter that has to be communicated for investigation
to [the rural consumer's] local carrier . . . we are just the
long distance carrier."

* "[The rural complainant] does not have an account with [our
company]. Additionally, the number experiencing problems is also
not [our] number; it is her landline number."

* "[O]ur records . . . do not show that [we were] previously con-
tacted by [our customer regarding] the problem described in the
complaint. Thus [we have] not had the opportunity to investi-

* "We have contacted the [rural complainant] and have successful-
ly resolved this matter by advising [her] that due to living in a
rural area she will experience service issues."

Long distance providers are cautioned that these responses do not
satisfy the requirements of Section 208. They do not address the
rural call completion problems raised in the complaint, provide a
credible explanation as to why the provider cannot do so, or ex-
plicitly refuse to satisfy the rural call completion issue ad-
dressed in the complaint. As such, these responses provide the
basis for further Commission investigation and enforcement ac-
tion, which may include monetary fines.

How may a provider satisfy rural call completion complaints?
Providers may satisfy such complaints by contacting the com-
plainant, testing and troubleshooting call completion, and perma-
nently moving traffic onto known well-performing routes when ei-
ther testing or repeated complaints reveal a problem. These ef-
forts and any contact with the rural telephone company should be
detailed in the provider's written response to the informal com-

What are the penalties for failure to respond adequately to or
satisfy rural call completion complaints? Section 503(b)(1)(B)
of the Act provides for the imposition by the Commission of for-
feiture penalties against any person who willfully fails to fol-
low the directives of the Act or of a Commission order.
Providers that fail to respond properly to informal rural call
completion complaints by satisfying such complaints, adequately
explaining why they cannot satisfy such complaints, or explicitly
refusing to satisfy such complaints, may be subject to enforce-
ment action for failure to comply with section 208 and Rule
1.717. The Commission may investigate providers that do not sat-
isfy such complaints, including providers that comply with Rule
1.717 by explicitly refusing to satisfy such complaints. Multi-
ple informal complaints about problems with calls that originate
on a provider's network not completing to a particular rural area
may also evidence degraded service on that route. A provider's
failure to investigate and satisfy such complaints may trigger
separate liability under section 201(b) and constitute the basis
for additional penalties.

Need more information? For information related to rural call
completion, please visit the FCC website at:
less-calling-rural-areas. A special link for completing and fil-
ing rural call completion complaints is available at http://tran- To initiate a com-
plaint, a consumer may also:

* Call 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) (voice) or 1-888-TELL-FCC
(1-888-835-5322) (TTY);

* Mail the complaint to Federal Communications Commission, Con-
sumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries and Com-
plaints Division, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554;

* Fax the complaint to 1-866-418-0232;

* Email the complaint to; or

* Complete an online form on the FCC's web site at

Media inquiries should be directed to Mark Wigfield at
202-418-0253 or

To request materials in accessible formats for people with dis-
abilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format),
send an e-mail to or call the Consumer & Govern-
mental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432
(TTY). You may also contact the Enforcement Bureau on its TTY
line at 202-418-1148 for further information about this Enforce-
ment Advisory.

Issued by: Acting Chief, Enforcement Bureau