January 26, 2015 / 9:55 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Verizon to pay $5 mln for problems with calls to U.S. rural areas

(Adds FCC, Verizon comments)

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc will pay a $2 million fine and spend $3 million on compliance programs to settle a government inquiry into calls not going through to some customers in rural areas, U.S. regulators said on Monday.

The Federal Communications Commission investigated whether Verizon, the largest U.S. telephone company, in 2013 failed to look into why long-distance and wireless calls were not going through to landline phones in 26 rural areas.

“All Americans, no matter where they are located, have a right to make and receive phone calls,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement.

“Phone companies are on notice that the FCC will hold them accountable for failures to investigate and ensure that calls go through to the rural heartland of the country.”

Though the FCC said it had significant concerns with Verizon’s actions, the regulator urged other companies to take advantage of the workshops and other efforts to improve call service in rural areas that Verizon will offer as part of the settlement.

Verizon will spend $3 million in the next three years to develop a system for automatic identification of rural call completion complaints, monitor call answer rates, hold workshops and sponsor an academic study on ways of detecting and resolving rural call problems.

Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said the company’s long-distance networks were highly reliable and it has worked proactively with the FCC and industry partners.

“Verizon will reach out to rural carriers and will do additional analyses to confirm proper delivery of calls to rural destinations,” he said. “This approach will help promote comprehensive, industry-wide solutions.”

Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker

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