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Least-Cost Routing Threatens Rural Phone Call Completion 205

New submitter kybred writes "Rural landline users are increasingly having problems with incoming calls not completing or being dropped. The culprit may be the bargain long distance carriers penchant for 'least cost routing' combined with the conversion of the Universal Service Fund to the Connect America Fund. From the Fine Article: 'Rural phone companies are the victim here," Steve Head says. "They charge a higher rate to terminate calls as it costs more for them. Shoreham Tel gets beat up because everyone calls them and says something is wrong with your system, but it's not. We've been through all of their lines and equipment and there is nothing wrong with it; it's the least-cost routing carriers.'"
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Least-Cost Routing Threatens Rural Phone Call Completion

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  • "Free" market fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:53PM (#42154857)
    If the telecom industry had not been regulated, people who lived in rural areas would have have gotten phone service. One might rationally argue along the lines of "Too damned bad. Move to town, ya hick.", but most people would not. The phone service is a utility, a vital one. As such the phone company was granted certain benefits (rights of way for the stringing and later, burying, of cable, for example). In exchange it agreed to wire rural areas. There's more involved than just that, but you get the idea. Without regulation, things would have been a mess, with consumers held hostage. Regulation can fix this scenario too. It's complicated though. You can't just telll the LD carriers "you must complete this call" if doing so costs them more than they charge. Likewise, the small rural phone companies must receive enough revenue to maintain their operation. And of course, wireless muddies things even further. The only way this is going to get fixed is if sane regulation is brought to bear.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:03PM (#42154915)

    Hang on - it's 'least cost routing'. That means you do it for as little cost as you can mange, not that you only do it as long as it costs less than some arbitrary threshold.

    If you can't route it for more than what you charge (on average) then you're not charging enough. You can't just drop the call!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:23PM (#42155039)

    Hang on - it's 'least cost routing'. That means you do it for as little cost as you can mange, not that you only do it as long as it costs less than some arbitrary threshold.

    If you can't route it for more than what you charge (on average) then you're not charging enough. You can't just drop the call!

    Sure you can, as long as the FCC doesn't catch you.

  • Re:to be expected (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:34PM (#42155115)

    if you choose to live in an urban area, you must either pay a premium to provide _basic_ infrastructure to rural/agrarian areas or go without food.

    your move.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:34PM (#42155117)

    The boonies are usually red areas that vote republican and spout off nonsense about being independent of Obama and the evil liberals who suck up all the money

    Here is your chance to practice what you preach
    Pay for your lifestyle

  • 59 percent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:36PM (#42155133) Homepage Journal
    Let me say this as nicely as I can. 59% of rural votes went for Romeny. In my state, while Obama won the urban counties, the win in many rural counties was way North of 60%. Now, what were they voting for. Were they voting for smaller government and lower taxes, or just voting against minorities who steal tax dollars. I don't know, but the reality is that these people voting for a candidate who did not support the federal government building infrastructure that makes the US urban areas strong. So why do they expect the urban people to pay taxes so they can get cheap calls?

    And cheap calls is all it is. They want to pay the same as everyone else. Look, I spent a lot of time living in rural areas in the US and elsewhere. I know the issues. I know the costs. But I am not asking anyone else to pay costs that I choose in incur. In other countries you have phone service. You just pay for a cell phone. And if you have to you pay for a booster station. That is all there is too it. There are very few areas in the US that have no cell reception, and I am sure most would work with a booster. Hell, in my house I don't have good cell reception. Do I go to the feds and demand a personal booster?

    If you want reliable phone, do what others have done. Form a cooperative. Pull fiber to the community, and then have the individuals pull wire to their properties. Say this is too expensive, say that the feds should pay for it? Well them maybe you should vote for a liberal government who will tax enough to fund it?

    What I feel is really funny is that somehow taxpayers are expected to foot the bill so that people can just pick up the phone whenever they want to just to chat, and we are expected to pay for that entitlement. Give me a break. When I was growing up we often did not talk to our extended family. Why? Because it was expensive and we could not afford it. Maybe once a week on sunday morning, but that was it. I guess we had the advantage is that we were literate so we wrote letters.

    I normally am much more receptive to these complaints. We are a rich country so we should have universal reliable communication, health care, education, transportation, teleportation, rib eye, Helly Hansen clothing, but given that those people just voted in great majority against it, it seems a little over the top.

  • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:40PM (#42155171) Homepage

    People don't need to move, they just need to pay enough so that their carriers won't charge higher fees for incoming calls.

    Saying "regulation can fix this scenario" without specifying how is senseless. The bottom-line is, any regulation you impose in this case just passes the extra costs from rural citizens to everyone else. Therefore, if you as a society think that cheaper phone service is indispensable, you just impose a tax on everyone's phone bill and use it to subsidize rural users.

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with having people pay the extra cost of living in the rural areas. Not to mention that other stuff (e.g. land) is cheaper than in the cities.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @02:28PM (#42155481)

    Income is also lower. So they are squeezed on both ends, lower income and higher cost of services. This causes a growing disparity between rural and urban citizens. That is bad for a society. Being a selfish piece of garbage and saying they should simply pay much more so that everyone can avoid pennies is exactly the kind of attitude which is causing this country to degenerate into a shithole. Perhaps when you watch your family gang-raped by these odious proles you care nothing about while your house burns down around you, cooperation will finally seem like the better choice.

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @02:29PM (#42155489)
    So are they going to PAY for the service? The real price, not the subsidized cost. No?

    Thought so.
  • Re:RTFA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @03:22PM (#42155913)

    "Free Nationwide Long Distance Plan". read that again. You are saying it is ok for Verizon to sell a "Free Nationwide Long Distance Plan" and then refuse to route certain calls because it is to expensive.
    I call that fraud. It is bait and switch. They can either not sell the plan at all or increase the price of it to cover their costs.

  • by bjwest ( 14070 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @04:05PM (#42156285)

    They don't have to. You and I are paying for it with the Universal Service Fund, or Connect America Fund, as TIL it's called. The carriers are trying to increase profits by making that fund a profit, instead of using it for what it was originally designed for - to bring affordable phone service to those living out in rural areas. To me, this should be handled the same as a tax evasion or fraud case. It is a government enforced "tax" after all, and if one penny of that fund goes to anything other than to provide service to the rural community, someone should go to jail.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:56PM (#42156937)
    "Practice what you preach" only works in totality. Say I'm a landlord and raise the rent from $700/mo to $800/mo, but I now pay for the utilities instead of the tenants having to pay. If a tenant complains that he'd prefer to pay his own utilities and keep his rent at $700/mo, I cannot make him pay his own utilities and raise his rent to $800/mo and say I'm just making him practice what he preaches. I cannot consider what I want and what he wants, take only the parts which favor me, and truthfully call it making him practice what he preaches. I'm gonna have to let him pay his own utilities but keep his rent at $700/mo.
  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @07:08PM (#42157409)

    While you are otherwise correct, I do have to complain about one thing you said.

    Nobody builds a telephone company to break even or run at a loss. Get over it.

    Yes they do. It's called a cooperative. It's legally (and actually) a non-profit. They're relatively common in the rural southwest, because even with the USF, it was impossible to attract a for-profit carrier to the region. I still have my membership certificate for one in Texas I used for a while.

    Personally I think all utilities should be run as co-ops. Extracting a profit for a life-essential service like water is wrong. Fortunately most states still have avid Public Utilities Commissions that strongly regulate water utilities, but all it would take is some asshole shouting "deregulate" long enough and that could change. And that would be unfortunate.

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