The effects of VoIP Least Cost Routing on rural call completion

Recent press surrounding the Federal Communications Commission’s 2012 declaratory ruling that carriers who deliberately fail to complete calls to rural areas could face cease and desist orders, forfeiture, license revocations and fines of up to $1.5 million has led to much discussion of Least Cost Routing and its role in rural call completion.

Increasing numbers of rural communities are reporting problems with incoming phone calls. Outgoing calls work fine, but when someone tries to call one of these rural communities from an urban area, the connection doesn’t go through. This “rural call completion” problem, which also includes connections with very bad sound quality, is getting scrutiny from the FCC.

Many are pointing fingers at Least Cost Routing (LCR) as the root cause of this issue. Rural areas are more expensive for these large carriers to serve because of lower population density. Providers that route the long-distance calls wish to keep these high charges to a minimum, so they route calls using Least Cost Routing, a process that selects from a number of carriers the one that offers the lowest rate to terminate each specific call.

This process of Least Cost Routing in itself is not a problem. Having multiple carrier options for terminating calls means that providers can be sure that there is a way to route a call to any rural number.

If one carrier is experiencing network outages or technical problems and is unable to complete a call, the provider has multiple alternatives that can be quickly and easily used to route the call. Providers using Least Cost Routing should be the most likely to quickly and accurately complete a call to rural areas.

The true problem is not with LCR, but rather with irresponsible carriers. There are carriers out there who will deliberately drop calls, rather than terminate calls to expensive rural destinations. Others might route calls through a convoluted path of carriers in an effort to reduce cost, which results in diminished call quality.

It is the service provider’s responsibility to monitor their terminating carriers to be sure that they are completing calls and keeping quality high. When service providers use Least Cost Routing to route calls to legitimate carriers, LCR means increased quality and lower rates for rural calls.

Several tools exist to monitor call quality and completion rates for service providers who use Least Cost Routing. For example, NexOSS has integrated modules to monitor traffic statistics and Quality of Service. Service providers can set custom triggers that set off alarms if a terminating carrier is acting irresponsibly, failing to complete calls, or causing poor call quality. In such cases, providers can suspend that carrier from their LCR options.