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Least Cost Routing Could be the Cause of Phone Issues for Oregon Residents


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May 03, 2012

Least Cost Routing Could be the Cause of Phone Issues for Oregon Residents

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Long-distance carriers could be held more accountable for switching to least cost routing tactics in the state of Oregon. Staff members of the Oregon Public Utility Commission met recently to discuss the likelihood of an emergency addendum to prohibit call completion discrimination.

According to this Seaside Signal report, this change to existing protocol could potentially hold long distance carriers responsible for least cost routing phone issues, such as call termination, that affect rural Oregon residents.

For over a year, the utility company has taken complaints from more than 1,600 customers who are dealing with very real call issues. The complaints range from long setup times, difficulty receiving faxes, dead air on the line and even poor voice quality.

While 1,600 is a lot of complains, staff members feel it is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are many more issues yet to be discovered. The problem is likely bigger than the utility and the commission realize, which could wind up costing more money to make improvements.

Providers are continuously looking to cut costs and utilizing lease cost routing as an answer to providing rural customers with services may be at the heart of the problems. Least cost routing takes advantage of third-party vendors for completing calls or, to make matters worse, phone calls are carried via the Internet with sub-standard technology. The issues with this low quality service and technology are endless.

The real concern is how these sub-par services are affecting residents’ lives and livelihoods. The real damage to these individuals goes beyond the scope of merely missing a call from aunt Sally or receiving a junk fax. Many rural business owners rely on phone lines to perform day-to-day operations and residents need a quality phone line for emergencies. The lack of quality phone service could translate into threats to public safety.

It is relatively vague as to what real powers, if any, the commission would have over the telecom industry. Specifically speaking, there are no designated rules or statutes that prohibit long distance phone providers from discriminatory practices against rural customers. The current standards are much too broad to bring about a resolution to the current issues. There are only a minimum number of call blocking levels and nothing to address least cost routing.

The Federal Communications Commission is the only real entity to come in and address the problem as a whole. But staff members of the Oregon utility don’t want to sit back and wait for the FCC (News - Alert) to step in. If the problem is affecting Oregon residents, the Oregon commission is expected to take a stand on behalf of its residents.

This could come in the form of an emergency rule in which residents would be protecting from choking, blocking, restrictive traffic and reducing by long distance carriers. There could be no discrimination against those rural customers most affected by least cost routing initiatives.

The rule change initiative is still being considered and is not a final offering by the commission.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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