Call Completion: Is There Anybody Out There?

We’re all familiar with the practice of stepping back to look at something from ‘20,000 feet’ to get a better view of the entire project. So it should come as no surprise to hear that from 36,000 feet the country’s landscape looks serene and peaceful as far as the eye can see.

But as I take a break from writing this post and peer out the airplane window somewhere over our nation’s heartland, I can’t help but think about the escalating problem of incomplete phone calls and the examples I’ve heard of hard-working folks missing calls intended to inform them about the death of a family member, or waiting on test results from their doctor’s office that never came simply because some yet to be determined interexchange carriers are not fulfilling their roles when it comes to transporting a call from point A to point B.

With apologies to Roger Waters, the story continuing to unfold across the U.S. beckons the same question asked in 1979 when Pink Floyd released The Wall: “Is anybody out there?”

This time it’s a struggle between small, locally owned companies that provide ‘last mile’ telecom services to their customers and large corporate conglomerates—a modern day David & Goliath—and it’s happening every second of every day, somewhere in America. In fact, it’s probably affected you without your knowledge. Remember that time last week (or last month) when it took several attempts to connect with your friend or relative or customer via a long distance call? Yup, that was it.

“It” is known in the industry as ‘Call Completion’, or quite possibly the lack of completion. The problem is no one at the Federal Communications Commission seems to notice, like nobody’s “out there”.

The theory of Call Completion relies on the basic B2B premise of two or more companies coming to an agreement of how certain goods or services will be exchanged and the appropriate compensation to each party for delivering said product or service.

In this case, the Call Completion, or the delivery of voice traffic from one local provider to another is being called into question, mainly because the nation’s largest carriers who own the ‘middle mile’ and connect my local telephone company to yours, and vice verse, seem to have created their own way of doing business.

For good or bad, the majority of today’s consumers, regulators, and lawmakers are oblivious to the growing problem of incomplete calls in America, mainly due to the fact that stories of this genre typically don’t get picked up by mainstream media.

So while the industry’s trade associations work together with their members to help identify originating carriers that appear to be in noncompliance with FCC rules, calls continue to go undelivered.

Depending on future actions of the FCC, the story may not have a happy ending as hundreds of thousands of phone calls could continue to go undelivered by long-distance providers and you and I may miss that one call we were anxiously waiting on, or the one that we never expected to hear…and never did.

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