Technology Transitions: Consumers Matter Most

This past January, the particular Commission unanimously adopted an order to speed technology transitions for the benefit of consumers. How? By guaranteeing that technology transitions bring development while protecting the enduring beliefs that consumers have come to expect using their networks, including public safety, consumer protection and competition.

The time has come to put those principles into practice. Today, I am moving to my fellow Commissioners two items which take up the task of encouraging technologies transitions while protecting those core values.

Tremendous benefits can be realized by the transition associated with public safety to IP-based networks. For example , IP-based networks will allow 911 call centers to receive a better range of information – such as text, video, and data from automobile crash sensors – to better support emergency response.

However the introduction of new technologies has also introduced new vulnerabilities that cannot be overlooked. We have seen a spike within so-called “sunny day” outages, whenever failure comes from the failure of software or databases and not from organic disasters. As the Public Safety Agency reported to the Commission earlier this particular month, a “sunny day” outage this past April left consumers within 7 states without 911 assistance for up to 6 hours. Some 6, 600 911 calls were not completed during that time. This is simply unacceptable.

A single 911 contact today can involve multiple companies operating in multiple locations across the nation, and that means a failure in one place can leave people without 911 service across multiple states, indeed across the nation.

That is why I am proposing action to protect 911 service as the tech changes move forward. The proposal I’ve sent my colleagues proposes a 911 governance structure designed to ensure the particular technology transitions are managed in a way that maximizes the availability, reliability, and resiliency of 911 networks, as well as the accountability of all participants in the 911-call conclusion process.

The second item concerns the so-called “retirement” associated with legacy networks. New IP-based networks, made of fiber for example , have introduced great new choices to millions of Americans. But millions of American homes continue to choose traditional, reliable, copper networks for voice communication. Now, we have been close to a tipping point, the actual Commission in January unanimously described as “a point where the adoption of recent communications technologies reaches a critical mass and most providers wish to cease offering legacy services. ”

So the item I am circulating offers to update the Commission’s guidelines that govern the retirement associated with legacy networks, and the discontinuance associated with traditional services.

To guard public safety, my proposals might take steps to ensure that consumers using these next generation networks and services – whether or not cable coax or telecommunications dietary fiber – can reach 911 along with other emergency services even when the power goes out.

To protect consumers, I recommend new transparency measures to ensure that these people know what is happening to their voice assistance when carriers propose to take this away – and what they can perform about it. This is not a hypothetical problem: the proposal to end traditional assistance in Fire Island, New York right after Hurricane Sandy damaged the copper phone lines sparked substantial open public concern – and rightly so.

To protect competition, this particular item includes proposals to ensure that small- and medium-sized businesses do not have the advantages of competition yanked away from them. The mere change of a network facility or discontinuance of a legacy assistance should not deprive consumers or companies of competitive choices. That would only lead to higher telecommunications prices that are passed along to consumers.

The two items for the November meeting join two other technology transition items that have been submitted to the full Commission. Earlier this week, I circulated a proposal to update the particular Commission’s rules to give video providers who operate over the Internet – or some kind of other method of transmission – exactly the same access to programming that cable plus satellite operators have. This change should ultimately give consumers more options to buy the programming they need.

Those same principles apply in the context of an item I circulated last week on an problem commonly referred to as “VoIP symmetry. ” The notion is simple –interconnected VOIP will be functionally equivalent to traditional voice assistance, and the Commission’s rules that control the way communications companies pay one another to complete voice calls must reflect that. Technology-neutral rules are best.

All four items turn on simple precepts that go to the heart of the open public interest: Technology transitions will be speeded by technology-neutral rules that promote, preserve, and protect the long-lasting values that consumers have deservingly come to expect, and chief among them is the ability to reach emergency responders and the ability to choose products and services inside a competitive market. Technology must enhance; these values must be protected; these things demonstrate how both can go hand-in-hand.


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