Tester demands better rural call reliability

Senator calls on watchdog to stand up for rural phone users, small businesses

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is demanding that the government’s top communications watchdog address an issue plaguing rural America: the inability to complete a simple phone call.

Despite more Americans using cell phones and high-speed Internet, many people in rural America – especially seniors – still depend on traditional landline phones to run their businesses, stay in touch with family, or make emergency calls. But dropped or delayed calls, poor voice quality, and other problems are increasingly affecting rural phone service.

Tester wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees communications nationwide, to quickly improve phone service in rural areas, where a recent study confirmed that call failure rates were “significantly higher” than in non-rural areas.

“During this difficult economic period, small businesses cannot afford to lose business opportunities because of dropped calls and poor service quality,” Tester told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “To protect rural consumers, we urge the Commission to continue promoting best practices and use all authorized and appropriate enforcement powers.”

Tester also wants the agency to crack down on call providers that break the law by illegally failing to complete calls to rural areas. Tester said the practice threatens public safety, telling Genachowski that “it is only a matter of time before this situation leads to tragedy when a rural customer is unable to receive an urgent call.”

“Poor rural service prevents my company from providing patients with needed care and remaining competitive,” said Justin VanCampen, owner of Remedies Pharmacies. “My pharmacies cannot grow and create jobs as long as poor service keeps them from sending or receiving faxes that hold patients’ orders. I appreciate Senator Tester getting involved to help a Montana small business communicate with its customers and support our local economy.”

VanCampen also said his phone service limitations stem from big businesses trying to cut costs by selling their phone and fax lines over the internet, which can lessen call quality.

Tester previously fought to improve communications in rural America when he took his fight for rural broadband internet access straight to the President. Tester told the President that the FCC needed to “rethink” its nationwide broadband plan that could hurt Montana’s small businesses by discouraging broadband investment in rural America.


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