Tuesday Roundup: Calling Rural America

FCC warns long-distance companies about serving rural areas • Rural folks at higher risk of death from injuries • N.C. TV station maps political protest arrests • With Obama headed to rural areas, how about some news about the rural economy?

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Rural Call Completion. Long-distance carriers need to do a better job of answering complaints from callers who say they can’t get through to people in rural areas, the Federal Communications Commission says.

The commission issued an enforcement advisory at their meeting Friday reminding long-distance carriers about the regulations on how to respond to such complaints.

It’s hard to read irony into FCC documents, but we think we see just a trace in this advisory. The commissioners give examples of how phone companies should not answer customer complaints. Here’s the best example of an unacceptable response from a phone company:

• “We have contacted the [rural complainant] and have successfully resolved this matter by advising [her] that due to living in a rural area she will experience service issues.”

Thanks, FCC.

Rural call completion is a technical issue described here by Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld. The upshot is that phone companies are playing “not it” –  trying to avoid being the last network that touches a call going to a rural area because of a special fee associated with those calls.

The FCC says it may do more enforcement, including fines, if phone companies don’t toe the line.

If you’re having trouble receiving calls to your rural number, or having trouble reaching someone in a rural area, the FCC has a site where you can lodge a complaint.

Rural Is Riskier. Rural areas have higher rates of deaths from injuries than urban areas, according to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The complete study is here. The researchers looked at injury-related deaths from 1999-2006 and found that rural areas had higher rates of death for overall trauma and vehicle-related deaths.  Researchers did not see the same trend with deaths related to firearms.

The findings run contrary to popular perceptions that it’s safer to live in rural settings than in the city, says Time’s Bryan Walsh. In reality, there’s a good body of research showing rural residents are disporpotionately likely to die from causes such as suicide and motor vehicle accidents.

TV Station Maps N.C. Arrestees. We love maps and charts at the Daily Yonder. Here are some that aren’t exactly rural, but interesting nonetheless.

WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, has compiled statistics of people arrested protesting at the state Capitol in what organizers are calling “Moral Monday” demonstrations. The protests are against actions of the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

WRAL tracks the arrestees by home county, race/ethnicity, gender, and party affiliation. (For party affiliation, the TV station went to a good deal of trouble – matching names, addresses and dates of birth with online voter registration data. )

WRAL notes in its methodology that Republican leaders have derided the protesters as outsiders. The data shows otherwise.  Only 22 of the 851 people arrested to date are from out of state. The arrestees are overwhelmingly Democratic or independent, and they are overwhelmingly Tar Heels – 97.5%, to be exact.

Obama and the Rural Economy. With President Obama heading to rural Illinois and Missouri tomorrow, it’s a perfect time for media to shine a light on the rural economy. Here’s a place to start. Bill Bishop reported recently in the Daily Yonder that the economic recovery has brought metropolitan job levels back to their pre-recession levels. Nearly all of the jobs that are still missing since the 2007 economic downturn are in rural areas.

So what’s the jobs plan for rural America? Although the unemployment rate has improved for rural areas, that’s mainly because there aren’t as many people looking for work. That means folks have moved to the city, retired or just given up. Sounds like a story to us.

 

 

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