Verizon will pay a fine of $2 million to the U.S. Treasury after agreeing that it failed to investigate low call completion rates in 26 rural areas, the Federal Communications Commission announced Monday.
The telecommunications provider also agreed to invest $3 million over the next three years to improve the completion of calls to rural America, the FCC said in a news release.
The FCC announced the consent decree with Verizon three-and-a-half years after a coalition of trade organizations wrote to the agency’s Enforcement Bureau, citing “a nationwide and industry-wide epidemic” of calls that were riddled with poor quality or failed to complete in rural areas.
The consent decree, the FCC said, resolves an inquiry into whether Verizon failed to investigate whether rural customers could receive long distance or wireless calls.
Over an eight-month period in 2013, Verizon shared weekly reports with the Enforcement Bureau on the company’s completion rates in rural areas.
The Enforcement Bureau subsequently issued a letter of inquiry to Verizon, asking the company what it had done to investigate the causes of law answer rates in 39 rural areas. Verizon said that it had looked into the issues or fixed them in 13 areas, but the company acknowledged it hadn’t investigated the remaining areas before it had been served with the agency’s letter, according to the decree.
Although the FCC noted Verizon’s failure to investigate the causes of the low answer rates was concerning, the FCC said Verizon’s commitment to improving call completion was encouraging.
“Verizon has worked proactively with the FCC and industry partners, devoting thousands of engineering hours and other resources to rural call completion analysis and testing,” Ed McFadden, a Verizon spokesman, said in an emailed statement on Monday. “Today’s consent decree puts in place a formal, cooperative plan. Verizon will reach out to rural carriers and will do additional analyses to confirm proper delivery of calls to rural destinations. This approach will help promote comprehensive, industry-wide solutions.”
The announcement marks the fourth significant resolution of an FCC rural call completion probe. Last year, the FCC entered into consent decrees with Matrix Telecom Inc. and Windstream Corp. A similar agreement was previously struck with Level 3 Communications, LLC.