The Federal Communications Commission said today T-Mobile will pay a $40 million fine for failing to connect rural phone calls, and for inserting fake ring tones in the calls. The FCC initiated an investigation after receiving complaints from T-Mobile callers who were unable to reach parties served by three rural carriers in Wisconsin. The complaints kept coming in after T-Mobile said it had “resolved” the problem. Then similar complaints about T-Mobile service came in from other rural areas.
T-Mobile admitted to inserting fake ring tones into “hundreds of millions” of the doomed calls, presumably to make the caller believe either that the phone was ringing at the receiver’s residence or business (and, presumably, that no one was picking up), or that the local terminating carrier was at fault, according to the agency. An FCC spokesman declined to say why T-Mobile inserted the ring tones, but pointed me to this section of today’s consent decree:
Section 64.2201 of the Commission’s rules: 1 prohibit service providers from injecting false ring tones on any telephone calls. False ring tones cause callers to believe that the phone is ringing at the called party’s premises when it is not. A caller may then hang up, thinking no one is available to receive the call. False ring tones also create a misleading impression that a caller’s service provider is not responsible if the call fails. False ring tones are a problem on calls to rural areas and are a symptom of the problems of impaired quality and completion of calls to rural areas.
When asked for an explanation T-Mobile responded with this statement (the customary marketing-speak has been removed): ” . . . the ringtone oversight, which was corrected in January 2017, was unintentional. We have settled this matter — and will continue to focus on our mission . . .”