Major carrier T-Mobile has been in an ongoing legal battle with the FCC over whether longstanding issues with rural coverage for calling in the past constituted violations of the Communications Act, and now the FCC has won that battle, seeing T-Mobile saddled with a $40 million fine and an obligation to adhere to a government-proctored compliance plan to prevent similar happenings in the future. T-Mobile stood accused of not only failing to fix issues related to rural coverage and calls, but also of inserting fake ringtones into customers' calls despite those calls never properly connecting, giving users the false impression that the other party had been reached, but had not picked up the call.
The FCC first began receiving complaints about T-Mobile customers not being able to reach the customers of three different carriers in rural areas of Wisconsin. The reports expanded beyond that area fairly quickly, and continued even after T-Mobile claimed to have taken care of the issue. As for ringtone insertion, T-Mobile admitted that it had done so, and that it was aware that such an act was in direct violation of the law and the FCC's guidelines. The carrier has entered into a consent decree that dictates that it will no longer insert false ringtones into failed calls, and that it will actively work to ensure that any and all rural calling issues are solved. The FCC, for its part, has halted its investigation.
T-Mobile has gotten better with rural coverage in recent years, making it easier to comply with the directives of the aforementioned consent decree. The Un-Carrier will presumably be striking deals with other carriers with the aim of making it easier for rural Americans to communicate with T-Mobile customers. As far as expanding its own coverage in rural areas, T-Mobile is working on that with the deployment and buildout of a large amount of 600MHz spectrum that it won in a recent FCC reverse auction. As the company marches toward widespread 5G deployment, a mixture of small cells and wider-service fixed 5G solutions will be employed to ensure that the sort of rural coverage gaps that plagued its 2G, 3G, and 4G networks never happen.