FCC Tackles Rural Carrier Issues Including Business Data Services, Call Completion

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The FCC in 2014 banned carriers from broadcasting false ring tones, but the agency said in settlement documents that T-Mobile acknowledged it was still using the tones for out-of-network calls from its customers for some calls.

Mobile phone network T-Mobile has agreed to pay $40m (£27m) after claims by the USA government that it used false ringtones when calls could not be connected in rural areas. Public Knowledge supports the quick action by the FCC but cautions against removing reporting requirements until the Commission knows the rural call completion problem is solved. Hundreds of millions a year!

However, Ms Clyburn also criticised FCC chairman Ajit Pai's office for negotiating a settlement that didn't include consumers.

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T-Mobile said it had corrected what it called the "unintentional" issue in January 2017 and added that it is "committed to all of our customers across the country". T-Mobile reported that it had injected the false ringing sounds on hundreds of millions of calls, the FCC said. False ring tones also create a misleading impression that a caller's service provider is not responsible if the call fails.

According to rules adopted today, long-distance providers will no longer be required to file certain reports with the FCC that were meant to address rural call completion issues but which, according to the FCC, "have not provided useful information" and have "proven ineffective in determining call completion failures".

"The FCC's Enforcement Bureau opened an investigation following rural carrier and consumer complaints that T-Mobile callers were unable to reach consumers served by three rural carriers in Wisconsin". As a result, the caller may hang up, thinking nobody is available to receive the call, thus saving T-Mobile fees it would have to pay the local carrier. "How many times did a consumer try calling his or her doctor for an urgent refill of an important prescription, only to think that nobody was picking up on the other end of the call?" she asked.

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