Improving Technology Transitions by Protecting Consumers, Competitors and Public Safety in an IP-World

The transition to efficient, modern communications networks is bringing new and revolutionary services to consumers and companies. The Commission’s approach to these technology transitions is simple: the shift to next-generation fiber and IP-based networks from analog switch- and copper-based networks is good and should be urged. But advances in technology can never justify abandonment of the core values that define the relationship between Americans and the networks they use to communicate.

After an open, rigorous process, I will be circulating to my fellow Commissioners an item that would update the FCC’s rules to help deliver the guarantee of dynamic new networks, offer clear rules of the road intended for network operators, and preserve the core values, including protecting consumers plus promoting competition and public safety.

Public safety, specifically, offers a vivid example of how technology transitions are concurrently creating each new opportunities and new difficulties. IP-based networks enable 911 call centers to receive a greater range of details – such as text and movie – so they can better support first responders in an emergency. However , IP-based home voice services are more susceptible to outages during emergencies than their own copper predecessors. While traditional, copper-based landline home phone service typically functions during electric outages because they bring their own power, IP-based substitutes usually require an independent source of power. This implies they need backup power to keep operating.

Consumers shouldn’t need to accept decreased phone service reliability like a price of progress; they should have details and tools necessary to maintain obtainable communications during emergencies. That’s precisely why our new proposed rules might require providers of IP-based phone services to offer consumers the option to purchase backup power. And I would tension the word option. It would be up to consumers to make the best choice for themselves. But to ensure that consumers understand their choices, providers would be required to inform customers about service limitations from electrical power outages and how to minimize those risks through backup power.

Empowering consumers with information is a central theme of our new suggested rules. Although these new networks have brought new choices for consumers, millions of American homes and companies continue to choose traditional, reliable water piping networks for voice communications. We all propose requiring that consumers become notified before the copper networks that serve their homes and companies are retired. This increased transparency can help ensure that new types of services satisfy the needs of consumers before legacy providers are removed.

Traditional copper network infrastructure has also been the mainstay of competitive service bought wholesale from the incumbent telcos simply by competitive providers and retailed to businesses, schools, health-care facilities, and other small- and medium-sized institutions. The competitive providers that buy this kind of capacityserve hundreds of thousands of businesses and other non-residential enterprises at competitive prices, often offering customized services certainly not offered by larger incumbents. Yet aggressive carriers and the customers that depend on them face uncertainty if the incumbent companies no longer provide the kinds of wholesale services that are key to this competitionmerely because of a change in the technology they use to deliver the service.

To address this, the item would need that replacement services be provided to competitive providers at rates, conditions and terms that are reasonably comparable to those of the legacy networks. This would be an temporary solution pending the completion of the broader wholesale access proceeding. Bottom line: there has been competition for wholesale providers before the technology transitions, and there will be competition in this market after these types of transitions.

Again, we would like to facilitate the transition to IP networks, which is why, consistent with longstanding policy, the proposed rules would NOT need FCC approval before carriers stop working copper networks, as long as no assistance is discontinued, reduced or impaired.

However , if a assistance is discontinued, reduced or impaired, Congress has mandated in section 214 of the Communications Act that FCC approval is required. Just as we would like to arm consumers with information, we all believe in providing greater clarity intended for providers, and the fact is that the Commission payment has not codified the criteria used to evaluate and compare replacement and heritage services. In a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we propose fixing this problem by clarifying the specifications we would use as part of our evaluation, and we seek more focused comment on the particular criteria to be used.

The Commission is committed to seizing the opportunities of the technology transitions plus unleashing new waves of advancement and consumer benefits. These obvious rules of the road will give companies the certainty they need to invest, while protecting consumers, competition and public safety in this time of change.

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