The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously approved bipartisan legislation authored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) that will improve the quality and reliability of phone service in rural America. The Improving Call Quality and Reliability Act (H.R. 2566), co-sponsored by Rep. David Young (R-IA), passed the House on Tuesday evening.
Welch introduced his bill after learning from Vermont small businesses, schools, and small telecommunication companies that calls were not connecting or being dropped. In some rural areas of the country, nearly one in five inbound calls to land line phones are not completed or are of poor quality, resulting in inconvenience for families and lost revenue for small businesses.
"Whether an emergency call or a business order, Vermonters should have confidence that their calls are completed without disruption," Rep. Welch said. "This bill addresses the epidemic of dropped calls in rural America and will ensure calls to emergency responders, businesses, customers, family and friends are reliably connected."
For rural residents and businesses, the problem begins with how incoming calls are routed. Large telecommunications companies often rely on intermediate providers ("least cost routers') to route calls from larger networks to local service providers. The "least cost router' frequently declines to connect calls in rural areas to save money, leaving rural customers unable to consistently and reliably use their landline telephone.
Welch's bill would for the first time hold these providers accountable. It would require them to register with the FCC and meet quality standards. Additionally, the bill explicitly prohibits providers from using any intermediary routing service that is not registered with the FCC.
Welch's legislation will now be considered by the Senate. Read the full legislation here.