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Concerning Communications: Understanding The Call Quality Bill
02/13/2017 Congress Andrew S
keywords: FCC

With so much focus on cities and suburbs in American discourse, it’s easy to forget that rural areas have their needs as well. The House of Representatives recently passed the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2017 in hopes of providing rural citizens with better access to quality telecommunications. Introduced by David Young (R- IA), the bill enjoys bipartisan support but little chance of becoming law.

Bill Background

The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act, or HR 460, seeks to amend the Communications Act of 1934, which has governed communications in the United States for over eighty years. The act created the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, to regulate radio and television services that operated across multiple states. In doing so, it consolidated the authority of several existing regulatory agencies in hopes of improving efficiency. The act charged the FCC with providing all American citizens access to affordable, high-quality communication services.

Attempting An Amendment

Providing quality phone service to all Americans requires that all regions of the United States, including rural areas, are treated equitably. HR 460 attempts to achieve such equality by regulating the use of intermediate providers. Telecommunications companies that operate in rural regions often contract with intermediate providers, or providers that assist communications service without actually providing a call path. The bill requires that all intermediate providers register themselves with the FCC and obey its standards for call quality. This applies to local exchange, interexchange, commercial radio, and Voice over Internet Protocol carriers. Thus in order to provide major long-distance communications services, a company must not only ensure good, equitable conditions on its own end, but also make sure that its partners do the same.

Prospects For Passing

HR 460 recently passed the House of Representatives and is now up for consideration in the Senate. Although specific information is not available about the House vote, it was a voice vote, indicating near-unanimous support from both Democrats and Republicans. The Senate version of this bill, which bears the same name, was proposed by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat.

Despite bipartisan support for the bill, PredictGov gives it only an 18 percent chance of becoming law. This may be due to the fact that there are currently no other bills in Congress on this subject, indicating that most Senators and Representatives do not consider it to be a priority. Even if this bill does not pass in its current form, however, supporters could work its provisions into other legislation and pass it that way.

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