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Author Topic: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted  (Read 3209 times)

wraith808

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FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« on: June 24, 2014, 09:50:17 AM »
Once again, a government agency doesn't think through its ruling...

So, I have Vonage as a phone provider.  They've been adequate so far... they are cheaper than a landline, the quality is just as good... and it's a phone.  What else can you expect?

Today, I made a few calls... and received the strangest message.  "Your call is being connected" over and over followed by "Your call could not be completed."  Then, just as I was about to hang up, the call completed.

I contacted Vonage, and they said it was because of their comfort tone feature, and a recent FCC ruling.  So I looked it up.

Rural Call Completion: Problems with Long Distance or Wireless Calling to Rural Areas

The ruling

Quote
B. Rules to Address Ring Signaling
111. False Audible Ringing. One of the rural call completion problems that parties have identified is “false audible ringing.” False audible ringing occurs when an originating or intermediate provider prematurely triggers audible ring tones to the caller before the call setup request has actually reached the terminating rural provider. That is, the calling party believes the phone is ringing at the called party’s premises when it is not. An originating or intermediate provider may do this to mask the silence that the caller would otherwise hear during excessive call setup time.279
 As a result, the caller may often hang up, thinking nobody is available to receive the call. 280
 False audible ringing can also make it appear to the caller that the terminating rural provider is responsible for the call failure, instead of the originating or intermediate provider. Once an intermediate provider provides a ringing indication to an originating provider while still processing the call, the call cannot be handed back to the preceding provider for an alternate route.281
 
112. In the Notice, the Commission proposed to mandate that audible ringing be provided to callers only after the terminating provider affirmatively signals that the called line is free and the called
party is being alerted.282
 The record overwhelming supports the adoption of the proposed rule.283

So... what do they do instead?  Always play a recorded message that communicates nothing about what is happening, and in no way fixes the problem- and in fact, makes the problem worse.  Great move, guys.  Great use of our taxpayer dollars paying your salaries...  :-\

mwb1100

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2014, 10:13:00 AM »
This sounds like a Vonage problem.

wraith808

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2014, 10:21:26 AM »
This sounds like a Vonage problem.

Vonage is taking advantage of the short sighted FCC ruling.  It's mostly to give advantage to the land-line die hards.  Because only on those networks is the handoff guaranteed.  And I don't blame them for doing it... I blame the FCC for the ruling in the manner that they did, rather than fixing the underlying problem.

Basically, the phones that I dialed today have been arbitrarily changed to be long distance.  And... this ruling affects long distance calls.  And international calls.  Even though one of the phones is sitting right next to me currently on AT&T's networks.

skwire

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2014, 10:46:37 AM »
Good grief.  Is something like this "false audible ringing" really an issue?   :huh:  Sounds like a solution in search of a problem.  :down:

40hz

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2014, 10:57:02 AM »
When you can't sort out important issues (like net neutrality) find a little diddley issue you can "solve" more easily.

Although in this case, I think because it's originating in response to an issue surrounding rural area phone customers (whom all the major carriers are doing their absolute damnedest not to be required to serve any longer) there's probably a larger and more significant consideration behind this ruling.

40hz

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2014, 02:12:24 PM »
It's mostly to give advantage to the land-line die hards.

I don't think it's so much landline diehards. All the big telcos want out of landline with NO requirement to provide alternative services unless they can sock their customers for a very expensive replacement system.

Cell towers to provide full coverage were supposed to be in place nationwide years ago. But the wireless phone folks concentrated on the areas that gave them the most revenue and dragged their feet about the rest they promised, choosing instead to pocket the cash rather than invest a healthy amount back into their networks. That reinvestment was something they originally promised - and were legally obligated to do. And when it finally hit the fan, rather than just getting it done, these same telcos lobbied Congress and the FCC to be released from the obligations they previously agreed to - and which were a condition of getting the frequency bands that were awarded to them.

All this reg is doing is making it obvious where the delays in getting an actual connection are occurring. It's also a safety issue. Suppose you were checking up on an ageing parent and you worried something bad had happened because nobody answered the phone, not knowing the call never reached them because it was hung up in your wireless carrier’s inadequate and under-provisioned network.  

That's not government meddling. That's just common decency. And a reminder to these companies that they've been handed a fairly free ride, and been allowed to operate as actual and near-monopolies in exchange for their promise to provide reliable telecommunications to ALL users in ALL regions of the country

That was the deal. I hope they succeed in making them stick to it.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2014, 02:17:53 PM by 40hz »

wraith808

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2014, 02:55:09 PM »
All this reg is doing is making it obvious where the delays in getting an actual connection are occurring. It's also a safety issue. Suppose you were checking up on an ageing parent and you worried something bad had happened because nobody answered the phone, not knowing the call never reached them because it was hung up in your wireless carrier’s inadequate and under-provisioned network. 

But that's not what is happening.  As I said, I picked up the phone, and dialed in to work (about a half-hour's drive), and received the message "Your call is being connected, your call is being connected.... your call could not be complet..." And then the line kicked in.  How is that solving the underlying problem?

That's what I mean about the ruling being short sighted.

As far as the cell tower bit... yes, that makes a bit of sense.  But then again... it's still not Vonage.  They made half thought out regulations, and Vonage followed it.

I was making suppositions about the reasons, but the underlying point is still the same... there are more regulations on the books that do nothing like what was intended.  Because they don't understand fully the ramifications before they make a ruling.

40hz

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2014, 06:13:51 PM »
How is that solving the underlying problem?

I think the FCC did as much as they could. They can't directly order the companies to fix problems. They're a regulatory agency. All they can do is pass a regulation and threaten enforcement action if it's ignored. But they're not the cops. And they're also (as they are sometimes forcefully reminded) a creature of Congress. They serve at the pleasure of the Congress. They can have their authority revoked at the stroke of the same pen that created them. So much like the Federal Reserve, they have influence and some narrowly defined authority - but not the final word.

It's up to the courts to rule on whether or not an agency exceeds its mandate or authority - and it's almost entirely up to the Executive Branch and the discretion of the Justice Department whether or not to prosecute or enforce a regulation or law. It's their call. And if there's not sufficient political will and public support (or awareness) behind a law - it often doesn't get enforced. You can't even sue in court to force the government to enforce a law. Ronald Regan wrote the book on that when he simply ordered the Justice Department not to enforce certain laws his administration disagreed with. And the courts ruled he was within the legal authority of his office even though they had a lot of negative comments to make about a President behaving in that manner.

Such is the power of the Executive Office.

So right now, I think the FCC did as much as they could by focusing awareness and drawing attention to where the problem is - and more importantly, who is responsible. If there is sufficient public outcry, it will eventually force our government to do something more concrete. And hopefully address the root of the problem. But until then, don't hold your breath. There's a lot of telco lobby money leaning on Congress and the Senate. And the Congress and the Senate are leaning on the FCC as a result. And it is an election year...
 :-\

wraith808

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2014, 06:27:57 PM »
So right now, I think the FCC did as much as they could by focusing awareness and drawing attention to where the problem is - and more importantly, who is responsible. If there is sufficient public outcry, it will eventually force our government to do something more concrete. And hopefully address the root of the problem. But until then, don't hold your breath. There's a lot of telco lobby money leaning on Congress and the Senate. And the Congress and the Senate are leaning on the FCC as a result. And it is an election year...

But did it draw attention to the right place?  As shown above, mwb1100 thought it was a Vonage problem.  I think that given that Vonage is who is being paid for service, most people would think that.  The onus should be on the receivers of the handshake, right?

40hz

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2014, 07:04:27 PM »
So right now, I think the FCC did as much as they could by focusing awareness and drawing attention to where the problem is - and more importantly, who is responsible. If there is sufficient public outcry, it will eventually force our government to do something more concrete. And hopefully address the root of the problem. But until then, don't hold your breath. There's a lot of telco lobby money leaning on Congress and the Senate. And the Congress and the Senate are leaning on the FCC as a result. And it is an election year...

But did it draw attention to the right place?  As shown above, mwb1100 thought it was a Vonage problem.  I think that given that Vonage is who is being paid for service, most people would think that.  The onus should be on the receivers of the handshake, right?

You have two problems here. One is an antiquated landline systems that AT&T was allowed to abandon by dumping it on local rural phone companies that were created to take them over and thereby get AT&T off the hook. These are small companies that get a good part of their revenue by charging access fees to outside phone services coming into their system in order to keep subscriber rates down. (Remember these are rural markets that don't have a lot of pricing elasticity.) The system that identifies the inbound call and logs the fees owed adds some delay to the end connection.

The other problem is the big inbound services don't want to pay these access fees. So they have their own systems that attempt routing through the networks using a "least cost" logic. This routing adds additional delays to call completion.

On the local landline end there's not much you can do. These companies are small and sitting on an old and expensive to replace network. Going wireless would be quickest and easiest. But it's also the most fragile in the event of natural disasters. And the question of who is going to build the cell towers, and how much the locals can afford to pay comes into play. And ideally there would need to be at least two players to provide some token competition in the market.

Good luck. The telcos weren't interested in serving that market earlier. That's why they dumped it originally and ignored the promises they made about introducing new technology into that sector. And they certainly aren’t about to do so now that 5G and 6G -  and selling content - is where the money is. So much so that it's why these phone companies are now fighting something that always used to be seen as a given: net neutrality.

So at this point, about the only doable short-term semi-solution is to light a fire under these bigger players. First, because you can't get blood from a stone - and those rural landline companies never had much blood to begin with. Second, because these bigger companies have a legal responsibility for the call connections originating on their own networks. From the article in the OP:

Quote
In a Declaratory Ruling issued in February 2012, the FCC clarified that carrier practices that lead to call completion failure and poor call quality may violate the Communications Act's prohibition on unjust and unreasonable practices and violate a carrier's obligations under the Act to refrain from unjust or unreasonable discrimination in practices, facilities, or services.  In a reference to the use of least-cost routing services, the FCC also reminded carriers that they remain responsible for the provision of service to their customers even when they contract with another service provider to carry a call to its destination.

Not that any of that stops players from challenging the FCC's authority in court and through direct pleas and favor swapping with elected officials:

Quote
Although the FCC also has prohibited Voice over Internet (VoIP) providers from blocking voice calls to or from the traditional telephone network, some VoIP providers have argued to a federal appeals court that the FCC lacks authority under the Communications Act to apply the no-blocking rule to VoIP calls.

But it's a step in the right direction until these problematic intercarrier fees gradually get phased out under proposed new regulations.

And, as was noted in the article, once the bone of contention (i.e. fees) is eliminated, it removes the financial incentives to go with least-cost routing schemes, at which point it's expected the connection delay problem will go away.

And like everything, once that problem goes away, rest assured another even worse problem will arise to take it's place. ;D

techidave

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2014, 05:40:40 AM »
If you click the link in the OP, there are more links at the top of the page. those first two are what we get out here in west central Kansas(rural).  Its a big problem for us because our school uses a alert system to notify parents of no school, etc..  Those telcos using a 3rd party to deliver the message do not want to pay for access to our telco.  hence the call gets dropped.  >:(




wraith808

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2014, 09:42:05 AM »
So at this point, about the only doable short-term semi-solution is to light a fire under these bigger players.

But how does that part of the ruling do this?  As I talked about, instead of a ring... and instead of silence... you instead get a recording.  The recording is serving the same function as the ring.  And has the same problems.

That's what I meant about short-sighted.

Renegade

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2014, 10:10:28 AM »
Ok, wait... hold on... let me get this straight...

A century old industry, that enjoys government regulatory monopolistic protections, and hasn't ever managed to improve the quality of its product (audio quality) is the target of...

Yeah... Please fill me in on how this whole situation isn't just a farcical comedy of incompetence and idiocy... Because I'm completely missing it!

I don't phone people to talk. I use VoIP most of the time, and the audio quality is far, far, far superior.

Just how is it that the dinosaurs haven't caught up?

Oh, that's right! They're not extinct because there's a law against them being extinct! Silly me! :P

But seriously... the whole situation is totally hosed. I wouldn't even know where to begin with a rant that wasn't just one stupid joke after another. 

tl;dr - Everyone is hosed and always will be hosed because you're ruled by hosers creating rules for more hosers who hose you! :P
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40hz

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2014, 01:33:40 PM »
Ok, wait... hold on... let me get this straight...

A century old industry, that enjoys government regulatory monopolistic protections, and hasn't ever managed to improve the quality of its product (audio quality) is the target of...

Yeah... Please fill me in on how this whole situation isn't just a farcical comedy of incompetence and idiocy... Because I'm completely missing it!

I think you are missing it. Do a little research into how these regional landline companies came into existence. And the market segment they attempt to serve. It's not at all what you seem to think.

Quote
I don't phone people to talk. I use VoIP most of the time, and the audio quality is far, far, far superior.

Great. Glad you have reliable broadband that's both affordable - and available where you are. Not every area in the US has such a service. It comes as a surprise to most people who don't live here (and even many of the people who do) that it's 2014 and there are still places that don't have it.

Just how is it that the dinosaurs haven't caught up?

Oh, that's right! They're not extinct because there's a law against them being extinct!

The "dinosaur" (by which I assume you're talking about the old AT&T Bell System) isn't extinct. With the permission of a government (which was so intent on breaking up Ma Bell's monopoly that it didn't see the sucker punch coming) AT&T basically jettisoned all it's obsolete plant and equipment onto a bunch of hapless regional landline companies - and left them with the obligation, mess, and expense of it all - while AT&T moved into the technological future it had previously done everything in its power to derail. And once there, began to cherry pick the customers and services it would provide for maximum profit.

It was almost like a slumlord being paid-off to dump all his old tenement buildings and boarding homes on the local housing authority - and then using the money (and release from all prior obligations) he gained by doing so to invest in a series of luxury resorts.

Sweet, huh? Talk about getting handed a "get out of jail free" card.

But seriously... the whole situation is totally hosed. I wouldn't even know where to begin with a rant that wasn't just one stupid joke after another.

@Ren - y'know...since we're talking seriously for a moment, sometimes you remind me of Josef Stalin or Chairman Mao with some of your rhetoric. They didn't much care either just how much pain or disruption would have to be suffered by the general public as long as it resulted in the "perfect world" they envisioned. There's times when I almost suspect you're starting to get like that - until I remind myself that most of the rage you channel seems to be driven by the best and most humane of intentions. (Please tell me I'm right about that much at least?)

That said, I really think you need to go back and check up on a little history about the phone system in the USA, the breakup of AT&T and the formation of the 'Baby Bells" (and what came after) - and the events surrounding the formation of the broadband industry - and the US internet in general vis-a-vis voice communications.

It's not a simple situation or an easy problem to deal with. If that's all tl;dr, maybe it's best to save the rant until there is time to look into it just a tiny bit more closely. :)
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 03:40:25 PM by 40hz »

wraith808

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2014, 02:14:55 PM »
To go back to the short sighted part... here's a better (though not perfect) wording that would have closed at least some of the loopholes.

"Until the connecting provider is contacted, no response can be given to the dialer.  At the point that it is contacted, but no handshake is completed- silence or a message may be played, that may or may not identify the receiver of the handshake.  Only at the time that the terminating provider has completed the handshake can an audible ring be played."

I didn't mean that the ruling might not be needed (though in the times that its personally affected me, I've remained on the call until VM picks up because everyone I know has it), but that the wording of the ruling was short-sighted and didn't look at the realities of the technology and what was going on.

40hz

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Re: FCC ruling on ringtones is... shortsighted
« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2014, 03:50:38 PM »
the wording of the ruling was short-sighted and didn't look at the realities of the technology and what was going on.

Agree. It could have been worded a lot better.

(I also think some political expediency entered in. Sometimes it comes down to a choice for an agency of "doing it right" or " doing what you can get away with doing in the current political climate")