Verizon Will Pay $5 Million to Settle FCC Rural Call Completion Investigation
Verizon has agreed to a $5 million settlement to resolve a Federal CommunicationsCommission (FCC) inquiry into the company's failure to investigate whether rural customers could receive longdistance or wireless calls to landline phones.
The inquiry, led by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, centered onwhether, over a period of many months in 2013, Verizon failed to investigate evidence of low call answerrates to 26 different rural areas across the country.
Verizon will pay a fine of $2 million and will implement acompliance plan in which it commits to spend an additional $3 million over the next three years to improvecall completion to rural areas across the country.
"All Americans, no matter where they are located, have a right to make and receive phone calls," said TravisLeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "Phone companies are on notice that the FCC will hold themaccountable for failures to investigate and ensure that calls go through to the rural heartland of the country."
In its consent decree with the Enforcement Bureau, Verizon has agreed to:
- Pay a fine of $2 million to the U.S. Treasury;
- Commit an additional $3 million over the next three years to address the problem of rural callcompletion on a company and industry-wide basis;
- Appoint a Rural Call Completion Ombudsman within Verizon to centralize analysis of rural callcompletion problems;
- Develop a system to automatically identify customer complaints that may be related to rural callcompletion issues;
- Limit its use of intermediate providers, i.e., telecommunications providers between the Verizonnetwork and the local rural provider, that are often the source of call completion problems;
- Monitor its call answer rates to individual rural areas and conduct an investigation when rates to anarea fall below a set threshold in any month;
- Host industry workshops and sponsor an academic study on methods to detect and resolve rural callcompletion problems;
- Provide quarterly summaries of its investigations to the FCC and meet periodically with Commissionstaff to identify lessons learned; and
- Prepare a report to be publicly filed with the Commission at the end of the three-year complianceperiod.
According to a press release issued by the FCC, "although the Bureau had significant concerns with Verizon's failure to investigate, it is encouraged byVerizon's commitment of significant resources over the next three years toward addressing rural callcompletion and encourages participation by other industry players and the academic community in theworkshops and other broader efforts that are required under the consent decree."
This is the fourth major resolution of a rural call completion investigation and, the FCC says, is part of a coordinated effort toaddress rural call completion problems.