The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) has released a Report analyzing rural call completion data collected over two years from “covered providers” (including LECs, interexchange carriers, CMRS providers, and VoIP providers) pursuant to the FCC’s Rural Call Completion requirements. The Bureau’s analysis found that the aggregate call answer rate in rural areas (64.3%) was slightly lower than in nonrural areas (68.8%), and the difference in median call answer rates in rural and nonrural areas was approximately 2%. However, there was wide performance variation among covered providers, suggesting that rural call completion may be more a function of individual provider performance than a systemic problem. Also, the aggregate call answer rate in rural areas did not increase over the course of the reporting period, suggesting that the reporting requirement has not caused providers to improve performance in rural areas during the reporting period.
The Bureau cautions that its findings are not firm conclusions as data quality issues impacted the reliability of the data collection. Among these data quality issues are variations in how covered providers report their data (e.g., how they categorize their call attempts) and variations in the types of data reported (e.g., most covered providers do not segregate autodialer traffic when reporting, some covered providers include intermediate provider and/or wholesale traffic). Even if accepted at face value, the data provides a less than clear understanding of the overall state of rural call completion performance.
Ultimately, the Bureau recommends that the FCC seek comment on eliminating its recording, retention, and reporting rules and replacing them with new rules to directly address rural call completion problems. The Bureau does not believe that the benefits of improving the FCC’s data collection process would outweigh the costs. The Bureau invites comments on its Report with a deadline of August 3, 2017.