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Klobuchar and Franken say new bill could improve rural phone service

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken (D-Minn.) said a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling will help improve rural phone service in Minnesota and across the country by holding all communications carriers accountable for providing high quality voice service to rural customers.

The ruling comes after Klobuchar, Franken and 22 other senators wrote the FCC urging the agency to investigate and fix the problem of dropped calls and poor call quality that was hurting rural businesses and consumers.

"Whether you live in Minneapolis or Mahnomen, residents and businesses need access to high quality voice service," said Klobuchar. "I am pleased that the FCC has taken this step to protect the rural communities that are so vital to Minnesota's economy."

"Businesses and families in rural Minnesota deserve the same reliable, high-quality telephone service that people in large cities are afforded," said Sen. Franken."One rural Minnesota business told me that a significant number of its customers' calls were not reaching them because the out-of-state carrier was not properly connecting the calls. This new rule puts some teeth into our efforts to ensure that carriers are held accountable when they fail to provide adequte service in rural areas."

Franken heard from the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and from rural local exchange carriers all over Minnesota who said their customers complained of calls that failed to complete, were delayed, had poor voice quality, lacked correct caller ID information, or where the originating carrier simply refused to place calls to certain rural areas. In response, he and his colleagues wrote to the FCC urging the agency to address the problem. Franken is chair of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law and has repeatedly advocated for broadband build out to rural areas. In April, Franken sent a bipartisan letter to the FCC urging the commission to consider the unique needs of rural communities when reforming the Universal Service Fund, a program that was created to improve communications service for all Americans.

Klobuchar is a member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, which has oversight of the Federal Communications Commission and is a leader in the Senate advocating for the deployment of advanced communications networks to rural America. In October, Klobuchar sent a bipartisan letter to the FCC urging the commission to move forward with reforms to expand and strengthen the Universal Service Fund, a program which is vital for rural communications networks. The FCC subsequently adopted these reforms.