The FCC announced today that T-Mobile has been fined $40 million for not improving the delivery of calls made to those living in rural areas. In the FCC Consent Decree order announcing the fine, the agency accused the nation’s third largest carrier with inserting phony ring tones, giving a caller the impression that his/her call was going through. In reality, the connection was never made, and the phone owned by the recipient of the call never rang at all.
Besides making the caller hang up thinking that no one was available to answer the phone, using the false ring tones also shielded T-Mobile from being blamed for not being able to connect the call. The FCC also noted that T-Mobile’s problems with connecting calls made to rural areas could also prevent doctors from getting to their patients who live in these areas, and can hurt businesses that operate in rural surroundings. It can also prevent families from communicating and lead to delays in public safety communications.
T-Mobile admitted that it inserted the false ring tones, and failed to improve the delivery of calls to certain rural areas. As a result, it will cut a check made payable to the U.S. Treasury Department in the amount of $40 million, and will also begin a compliance plan.
The FCC has a website that is dedicated to issues arising from calls to rural areas. According to the site, these are the issues that cellphone users will experience when a call to a rural number is not going through:
- After you dial, you hear nothing or “dead air” for 10 seconds or more. If you stay on the line, the call may seem to be dropped or you may eventually hear a busy signal.
- After you dial, you hear as many as 10-20 rings even though you are reasonably sure someone should be there to answer or an answering machine should pick up.
- After you dial, you hear a recording such as “The number you have dialed is not in service” or “Your call cannot be completed as dialed” when you are sure that you’ve correctly dialed the number and the called phone is working.
If you experience any of the above when calling a rural number on your mobile handset, you should report the problem to the FCC.
source: FCC (pdf)