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Commerce Department Pursues Next Steps to Protect Greater Minnesota Households and Businesses from Call Failures

January 13, 2014


For Immediate Release:

SAINT PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Department of Commerce filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission today urging the PUC to open an investigation of rural call completion issues.

The Commerce Department’s Telecom Division began its investigation into rural call completion complaints in December of 2012.  The investigation included examining dropped calls, call routing problems, long set-up times with false ringing, and carriers changing call signaling information to avoid or minimize access charges.  This problem has been identified by communities in Greater Minnesota as a crisis; ranging from a public safety concern to hundreds of thousands of dollars, or millions of dollars, of lost revenue for businesses operating in the affected areas.

"The Commerce Department has conducted its investigation into the call completion issues on behalf of Minnesota consumers and businesses who have had to deal with this issue for years,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.  “A Commission order is needed to establish new regulatory parameters.   A Commission investigation will establish the record required for the PUC to decide what regulatory steps are needed to address this important issue.” 

The comments filed by the Department outline the ongoing issues experienced by rural residents and businesses, which include the statement of issues, the federal law and related activities, and the analysis of the problem. The FCC began detailing rural call failures since 2007 and has taken many steps to reduce the problems.  However, the problems persist and calls that begin and end in Minnesota are within the jurisdiction of the PUC. Further, the entire scope of the issue is unknown since many customers in Greater Minnesota are not aware of the problem due to false ringing.  When this occurs, the caller hears ringing, but the call was not connected. Conversely, people on the other end of the call do not know the call had been initiated, and more importantly, that their calls are not being completed.  Ongoing frustration from businesses recognizing the lack of calls, and therefore, the lack of revenue has been voiced at both the state and federal level.

“We are thankful that the Commerce Department is taking this important step in finding a solution to the call completion issues experienced in Greater Minnesota,” said Roger Brazier, Sales Manager at Mattracks in Karlstad, MN.  “This is an issue that greatly affects the vibrancy of rural economies – we know that the call completion problem has cost our business millions of dollars and appreciate the ongoing investigation and regulatory involvement on behalf of our community.”

In the filing, the Commerce Department is recommending a Commission investigation to seek comments from interested parties to develop a record on rural call completion issues.  The Department provided questions that parties should address. 

What We Do

The Commerce Department’s Telecom Division represents consumer interests in all aspect of the regulatory process to ensure that reliable telecommunications services are provided to all at reasonable rates.  Visit the Commerce website for helpful information, such as how to understand your phone bill, and how to avoid getting slammed, crammed, or otherwise scammed by telephone companies.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your phone service or other communication services, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce at 651-539-1883 or telecom.commerce@state.mn.us.