PLATTSBURGH — Local phone companies want customers to know what is causing issues with long-distance calls to rural areas and what they can do about it.
Champlain Telephone Co. Vice President Greg MacConnell said the issue, known as “failure to complete,” started to show up several years ago but is becoming more common.
The main symptoms are long-distance or wireless calls that don’t get through or have very poor quality if they do.
“The volume of this is continuing to increase in the last few months,” he said.
Other symptoms include dead air of 10 seconds or more, a message that the number is no longer in service, unacceptable voice quality and prolonged ringing on the caller’s end but the recipient reports the phone rang only once or twice.
SUBCONTRACTING TO SAVE
The problem lies with the originating phone company. Those often subcontract with Internet companies that use a computerized routing system to reach the intended recipient.
According to a Federal Communications Commission fact sheet, the problem appears to be mainly in rural areas where long-distance or wireless carriers usually pay higher-than-average charges to the local phone company to complete calls. That is part of a long-standing system of access charges that help pay the cost of rural networks.
Because of that, some long-distance companies contract with third-party, lowest-cost routing-service providers to connect calls. Although the contracts usually include strict performance parameters, those are often not being met.
Chazy Westport Communications President and CEO James Forcier said it is illegal for the underlying carriers to not complete a call, but it is still happening.
“That gets all the customers upset,” he said.
Crown Point Telephone President Shana Macey said that although the issue is upsetting to customers, it is more importantly a public-safety issue. She said they had one case where a doctor’s office couldn’t reach a patient to tell them about some critical test results.