Verizon agreed to a $5 million settlement after admitting that it failed to investigate whether its rural customers were able to receive long distance and wireless phone calls. The settlement is part of the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to fix the rural call completion problem, which extends beyond just Verizon’s network.
“Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications,” the FCC said in its order on the Verizon settlement today. “They cause rural businesses to lose customers, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications.”
The settlement arises from Verizon’s “failure to investigate” rather than from actual call completion problems. Verizon has been collecting weekly samples of call answer rates in rural areas and reporting the data to the FCC. Over an eight-month period during 2013, low call answer rates in 39 rural areas should have triggered an investigation, the FCC said. The FCC asked Verizon what steps it took, and Verizon said in April 2014 that it investigated or fixed problems in 13 of the 39 areas but did nothing in the other 26.
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