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House Passes Bipartisan Rural Call Quality Legislation

The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act (HR 460), which would address call quality and reliability standards in rural areas, was passed by the House Monday.

The legislation would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure the integrity of voice communications and to prevent unjust or unreasonable discrimination among areas of the United States in the delivery of such communications.

The legislation is critical, because, said Rep David Young (R-IA) one of the co-authors of the bill, “Reliable communication is critical for our constituents to live their lives, for our businesses to succeed and for our communities to thrive. Yet, in rural states and areas across America, phone calls are not getting through or the connection and quality are poor. A family in rural America should not be disadvantaged because of where they live and Iowa businesses should have the same communication access to conduct daily business as those in urban areas."

“Whether an emergency call or a business order, Americans should have confidence that their calls are completed without disruption,” added Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT). “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.”

The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act would require intermediary providers to register with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and to meet quality standards ensuring rural Americans can rely on phone service. It also would prohibit providers from using any intermediary routing services not registered with the FCC.

The legislation would require the FCC “ensure the integrity of the transmission of covered voice communications to all customers in the United States, and prevent unjust or unreasonable discrimination among areas of the United States in the delivery of covered voice communications.”

The act would require, “An intermediate provider that offers or holds itself out as offering the capability to transmit covered voice communications from one destination to another and that charges any rate to any other entity (including an affiliated entity) for the transmission shall register with the FCC; and comply with the service quality standards for such transmission to be established by the FCC.  A covered provider may not use an intermediate provider to transmit covered voice communications unless such intermediate provider is registered.”

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the legislation … the FCC shall promulgate rules to establish a registry to record registrations,” and, “Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment … the FCC shall promulgate rules to establish service quality standards for the transmission of covered voice communications by intermediate providers.”

The same legislation passed the House in November 2016, but was not considered by the Senate prior to adjournment of the 114th Congress.

The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act again heads to the Senate for final consideration before it can advance to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

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