Long Distance Calls Missed, Networks Blamed

At their May 5 meeting, the Wright County Supervisors and others vented frustrations to the Goldfield Telephone Company over long distance calls not reaching their offices. The Telephone Company said that the problems lie in parts of the network that are beyond their control, result in part from larger networks’ reluctance to cover rural areas, and can only come to light if those making the calls report them.

“We don’t know who tried to call us and gave up,” said Brad Hicks, Wright County Economic Development Director, voicing a common concern in the room.

“I’m concerned that we’re not getting vital information for patients, and we’re going to lose the referrals,” said Tiffini Toliver, administrator of Wright County Public Health & Hospice.

“Our vendors don’t even call the office,” said Shari Plagge, Assessor, citing unsuccessful calls that she confirmed came from two different networks. “They call our personal cell phones, because they can’t get through.”

 “It is a problem, but unfortunately it’s out of control,” said Goldfield Telephone’s Rick Dyer. “The other party has to put in a trouble ticket with their carrier. We can’t call them up and say, ‘hey, your customer can’t call us.’ “

Darrell Seaba of Goldfield Telephone said that calls from outside the ‘515’ area code are routed locally through Iowa Network Services (INS) in Des Moines. As providers at various stages of the network seek to avoid incurring charges – which are greater for calls to rural areas – the calls may be routed through multiple providers’ lines in what material from the Company called “ ‘hot potato’ fashion.” Dyer cited a 2013 $1 million FCC fine issued to Level 3 Communications of Bloomington, Illinois, for not routingcalls to rural areas.

In order to understand where the problem area is in the networks’ routing, both the caller and call-ee must be known, which – as Hicks and others stated – leaves out an unknown number of callers who gave up on trying to reach Wright County. Ryer also noted that while callers may think their calls are going through, often the beeping callers hear are “phantom rings” unconnected with whether the calls have reached their destinations.

“If we were to switch to a bigger company with wider coverage, would that fix our problem?” Betty Ellis, Auditor, asked Goldfield’s representatives.

“We want to do as much business in our neighborhood as we can,” Hicks said, also echoing room opinion that local business was preferred if the problems can be addressed. 

Supervisor Stan Watne motioned to re-assess the problem next week and see what could be done in the interim. Tolliver and Plagge gave Goldfield Telephone the names of around 10 known unsuccessful callers.

Read more about the May 5 Supervisors’ meeting in the May 8 issue of the Monitor, on newsstands now!