Thursday Roundup: The Fake-Ring Fail

FCC bans long-distance companies’ deception • The Bitter Southerner covers the new South • “Rural” gets falsely blamed for secession efforts • West Virginia Senate race shapes up

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FCC Issues Rule on Rural Call Completion

The Federal Communications Commission has released a new rule designed to ensure that rural residents receive their phone calls.

In our view, the most satisfying portion of the new rule is the prohibition of a very sneaky phone-company practice: the fake ring.

Here’s how the fake ring works, according to Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld:

Sometimes, when long-distance companies can’t complete a call to a rural customer, instead of disconnecting and making the error obvious, the long-distance carrier will play the caller a fake ring. The ring makes the caller think the call is getting through. In reality, the intended recipient of the call never hears a thing.

We’re sure the offending long-distance companies have some justification for their subterfuge. But, come on. It’s obviously just a way to reduce complaints and keep consumers in the dark about lousy phone service.

At any rate, the FCC’s new rule prohibits the use of such fake rings. The rule also requires long-distance carriers to keep data about how they route their calls to rural consumers. The FCC says it will use this data in making additional rules about rural call completion.

The new rule came about because of complaints about the number of times long-distance companies drop calls that are intended for rural customers.

“It is shocking that in this day and age, long-distance calls to rural Americans all too often are not being completed,” acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said. “This is a serious and unacceptable situation for people living in rural America.”


A New South Website. A friend in Knoxville calls to our attention a new website, The Bitter Southerner. The germ for the site began with a grudge against Drinks International for omitting Southern watering holes from its list of top 50 bars in the world. In attempting to set the record straight by documenting the best in Southern drinking establishments, editor Chuck Reece said he realized there was a larger void to fill: sharing the stories of Southerners who are doing “cool things, smart things, things that change the whole world, or just a few minds at a time.”

The site promises “one great story from the South every week.” The most recent of which is a review of Southern soul, complete with audio tracks. (We’re jamming out as we write this to Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”) There’s a story on the anniversary of the Birmingham church bombing, an essay by Drive-By Truckers band member Patterson Hood. And, of course, there’s a piece on great bars in the South.

The site promises to lift up the “honorable” traditions of the South (drinking, cooking, reading, writing, singing, playing and making things) and confront what it consider less desirable legacies head on. To wit: “If you are a person who buys the states’ rights argument … or you fly the rebel flag in your front yard … or you still think women look really nice in hoop skirts, we politely suggest you find other amusements on the web. The Bitter Southerner is not for you.”

The Bitter Southerner is obviously a site that honors its roots. Like it says on the nameplate: “Since 2013.”

Secession Movements not “Rural.” Secession movements that are making headlines in three states get characterized as rural when they are actually “right wing, anti-government, libertarian – and fruitless,” writes Rick Cohen in Nonprofit Quarterly.

Groups in the western panhandle of Maryland, northern Colorado and northern California are discussing ways to secede from their respective states. These are largely rural regions, and the stated reasons for wanting to form a less perfect Union include the disconnect between urban-focused state politics and these nonmetro areas.

But Cohen says the secession work is fueled not by the urge to have more representative government but to advance right-wing political objectives. The Jefferson Statehood Project, which is pushing the northern California secession initiative, touts “free people, free markets, limited government.” In Maryland, Cohen notes the involvement of people pushing not a rural agenda but one that opposes abortion rights, gun control and storm-water management.

“To suggest that these [secession efforts] are rural complaints, as opposed to politically right-wing, frequently libertarian initiatives, casts an unfair aspersion on rural Americans,” Cohen writes.

W.V. Senate Race Firms Up. West Virginia has a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, but the folks at Sabato’s Crystal Ball predict the state will still go Republican in the November election.

As expected, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant announced this week she’ll seek the Senate seat being vacated by Jay Rockefeller. She’ll likely face Republican Shelley Moore Capito, the U.S. representative in the state’s second district.

Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley say the state is still a likely pick up for Republicans. 

 

 

 

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