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Senators ask FCC to solve rural phone service problems

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., announced today that he and a bipartisan group of 23 other senators from rural states have called on the Federal Communications Commission to address excessive substandard phone service in North Dakota and throughout the most rural regions of the country.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the senators said constituents in rural America have complained about excessive call drops, calls being blocked and other unacceptable interruptions in service.

“As reliance on high-speed internet and mobile communication continues to grow, it is important to recognize that many Americans still rely on their traditional landline phone to engage in commerce, communicate with friends and family, and call for emergency assistance,” the senators wrote.

“Nearly three-fourths of American households have landline phones, and 62 percent of Americans say the service is a necessity,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, this service has become less reliable in certain rural areas due to a call routing and termination problem that is preventing the delivery of a growing number of calls to customers of rural local exchange carriers.”

The letter went on to note that representatives of rural carriers have reported a staggering 2,000 percent increase in complaints between April 2010 and March 2011 from consumers who have experienced calls that fail to complete, are delayed, have poor voice quality, or lack correct caller ID information.

The problem, commonly referred to as "call termination," "dropped calls," or "call completion," is widespread and has been reported by local exchange companies in 36 states, the letter said. The senators said disruptions in service have had a negative effect on local businesses throughout rural America, and present a serious safety concern for affected consumers.

The list of cosigners, in addition to Conrad:


Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Mike Crapo, R-Idaho
Dan Coats, R-Ind.
Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Al Franken, D-Minn.
Charles Grassley, R-Iowa
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
John Hoeven, R-N.D.
Mike Johanns, R-Neb.
Tim Johnson, D-S.D.
Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
Jim Risch, R-Idaho
Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Jon Tester, D-Mont.
John Thune, R-S.D.
Mark Udall, D-Colo.