DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s Level 3 Communications has agreed to pay nearly $1 million to federal regulators under an agreement aimed at improving the reliability of its telephone service in rural areas.

The deal announced by the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday ended an investigation into the Broomfield company and established tougher standards for its rural service.

The FCC said Level 3 would voluntarily pay $975,000. And if it misses quarterly benchmarks, it would pay another $1 million.

The benchmarks require that Level 3 get its call completion rate in rural areas to within 5 percent of the rate in urban areas. It also must tell the FCC about how its intermediate providers are performing and help in any investigations of those carriers.

The chief of the FCC’s enforcement division, Michele Ellison, said basic long distance service is failing at “alarming rates” in rural areas and praised Level 3 for tackling the problem.

“We are aggressively pursuing the problem wherever it leads, and there will be significant consequences for those companies that are not fulfilling their obligations to rural America,” she said.

Level 3 said it has long supported having clear standards for all carriers to follow.

“Level 3 fully supports the Commission’s mandate to improve telephone quality in rural America, and to root out those in the industry responsible for any substandard phone service,” Level 3’s general counsel for regulatory policy, Michael Mooney, said in a statement.

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