The FCC is considering changes to the decades-old toll-free calling system that will hurt consumers, and Windstream is pushing back.
For years, AT&T has told the FCC that widespread abuse of the toll-free calling system requires a remedy, even though there is little to no evidence justifying radical reform. So now, the FCC is proposing that you – the consumer – should pay the freight. Windstream thinks that’s bad policy and, along with Frontier and NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, we filed written objections with the FCC today.
The way the system works now, callers who dial 1-800, or other toll-free numbers, aren’t charged for making calls. Instead, businesses like retail stores and banks pay the cost and that makes sense. Businesses subscribe to toll-free services because they want to encourage consumers to call them and to set themselves apart from other businesses that don’t offer free calling.
The payments for these calls are currently transacted in a way that is invisible to consumers, as it should be. But now, the FCC wants to charge you for these calls, while at the same time reducing the reimbursements carriers like Windstream receive for connecting them.
For Windstream and other carriers, cutting revenues will make it much harder to continue investing in networks, especially in rural areas that are already expensive to serve because they have so few customers. The FCC has worked cooperatively with the telecommunications industry in recent years to support the expansion of broadband in these high-cost areas – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that closing the divide between Americans that do and don’t have broadband is his “number one issue.”
But, while Windstream has made great strides in delivering faster broadband to some of the most rural communities in America with the help of the FCC, the stark reality is that misguided proposals that drive up costs for our customers and reduce our revenues completely undermine the quest for ubiquitous broadband.
The FCC should take a long, hard look at this issue before it imposes an extreme remedy to an almost nonexistent problem – and hurts consumers in the process.