FCC Tells Phone Companies You Can't Arbitrarily Block Calls To Numbers You Don't Like

from the awfully-quiet-about-it dept

A few months back, telcos like AT&T and Sprint started blocking calls to various free conference call lines based in Iowa. As we had explained earlier, these systems were basically abusing bad regulations in Iowa, forcing telcos to pay them a lot of money for every incoming call. Even so, it seemed questionable that telcos could arbitrarily block who customers could call. It certainly echoed some of the concerns about network neutrality, where ISPs conceivably could block what sites users could visit. Based on all of this, it was somewhat surprising that the FCC didn't get involved. Eventually, however, the telcos backed down. We had assumed it was a combination of the bad publicity over the blocked calls (even if the Iowa telcos involved seriously overhyped the importance of being able to scam bigger telcos through regulatory loopholes) and the fact that the FCC was finally holding meetings on the issue. However, earlier today, FCC Chair Kevin Martin admitted that the FCC quickly called the big telcos in question to let them know, in no uncertain terms, that this was a violation of FCC rules. In fact, he claims that a week after the big telcos backed down, the FCC discovered that at least one was still somehow limiting or degrading calls to those Iowa numbers -- and the FCC contacted the telco again to tell them that this was not allowed. It's good to know that the FCC took this seriously (especially since it's one of the few times that it seems to have gone against the wishes of its good friends in the telco industry). It's still odd that the FCC didn't make any public announcement about this to make it abundantly clear to others not to go down this route. Perhaps Martin wanted to save his friends from some embarrassment. In the meantime, can anyone explain why no one is changing the silly regulations to get rid of the ridiculous and unnecessary fees to these Iowa telcos?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Jim, May 3rd, 2007 @ 4:18pm

    Iowa Telcos

    One large issue remains unresolved. The large telcos stopped paying the small local companies"connection fees" as of last October. The local telcos have filed a lawsuit against the large carriers demanding payment in excess of $2-milliion.
    And while the calls are being connected again, the local telcos are not being paid the connection fees mandated by FCC rules.

    The large carriers stopped paying the fees in a "snit" claiming they were too high. (The chairman of ATT just got a $154-million retirement package....)

    On this point the FCC has invited the local telcos to petition the FCC for payment from the large carriers. It is important to note that the issue is currently in court, but by inviting the local telso to petition the FCC directly, it appears the FCC wants to resolve the payment issue pronto.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2007 @ 4:26pm

    Maybe the FCC didn't make a big announcement because they were trying to avoid the "striesand effect." To wit: If it made headlines, everyone who never knew about these free conference calls and free international calls will now know about them, and start using them, creating more problems for the big guys who will eventually have to pay something.
    The issue with how much is owed comes from the problem that the small telcos decided that they could charge higher then the regulated amount. Techdirt has done articles on this bit too, so I won't rehash.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2007 @ 6:07pm

    Why is it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2007 @ 6:13pm

    Why is it...

    Why is it that Martin is opposed to network neutrality when it comes to internet access but in favor of it when it comes to voice access? Could it be that he's not really so in favor of it in either case but was pushed to reluctantly take action in this case? That would certainly explain his reluctance to publicly announce it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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