Key House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Welch’s Bipartisan Bill to Improve Rural Phone Service
WASHINGTON––The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing this week on Rep. Peter Welch’s (D-VT) bipartisan legislation to improve the quality and reliability of phone calls in rural areas of the country. Welch introduced the legislation after learning from Vermont small businesses, schools, and small telecommunication companies about calls not connecting or being dropped throughout the state.
Welch arranged for Mr. Eric LeBeau, General Manager of Ferrisburgh’s Dakin Farm to testify at the hearing about the company’s experience with customer calls being dropped in the middle of ordering products. LeBeau told the Committee how his company was harmed by call completion issues from 2010 through 2012.
“This is about basic telephone service. And it’s pretty astonishing when you think about it that you can’t have confidence as a business or individual that your call is going to go through,” Rep. Welch said in the hearing. “[This hearing is] an indication that this committee is sincerely committed to making certain that the tools of the modern economy—let alone the telephone—are available to folks in rural America. That’s red states, blue, states, its all of us.” His full remarks can be found here.
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 with Rep. David Young (R-IA) would for the first time hold both the intermediary provider and the originating providers accountable. It would require intermediary providers to register with the Federal Communications Commission and meet call rural quality standards. Additionally, the bill explicitly prohibits providers from using any intermediary routing service that is not registered with the FCC.
Read Welch and Young’s full legislation here.