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Klobuchar, Tester introduce bill to improve rural communication

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced a bill to improve rural communications and address call completion challenges. Persistent phone call completion problems in rural communities across the country are creating major inconveniences for families, hurting businesses, and threatening public safety. A 2012 test call project found that nearly one in five calls placed to rural areas were delayed, of poor quality, or incomplete. The senators' legislation — the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act — would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish basic quality standards for providers that transmit voice calls to help ensure businesses, families, and emergency responders can count on phone calls being completed.

"Chronic phone call completion problems cause headaches for families trying to stay connected, hurt small businesses trying to reach customers, and endanger citizens trying to make urgent calls," Klobuchar said in a news release. "These challenges are a particularly big problem in rural communities in Minnesota and across the country, and we need to take action to address them. Our bill would set commonsense standards for providers to help ensure families, businesses, and emergency responders have access to the reliable phone service they need."

"Folks in rural America rely on consistent and reliable phone service to run their businesses and stay in touch with their families," Tester said. "This bill is an important step toward ensuring that rural Americans are able to connect with folks regardless of where they live."

The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act would direct the FCC to establish basic quality standards for providers that transmit voice calls to help prevent the discriminatory delivery of calls to any and all areas of our country.

The legislation also directs the FCC to require these providers to register with the agency. These reforms would ensure small businesses, families, and emergency responders in rural America can once again rely upon their telephone calls being completed. The legislation is supported by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, and the Western Telecommunications Alliance.

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve communications infrastructure in rural areas. In 2013, Klobuchar introduced and passed a resolution through the Senate Commerce Committee urging the FCC to take action to solve the problems with the completion of calls in rural areas, after which the FCC took some preliminary regulatory and enforcement actions to curb the problem.

Tester co-sponsored similar legislation last Congress and also supported Klobuchar's 2013 resolution urging the FCC to improve America's communication system to better keep rural America connected.