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From growing the economy by helping small businesses stay connected to customers, to allowing families to stay in touch, the phone system has made universal communication possible. The phone system is a vital public utility that should serve us all. Fundamental laws and regulations, such as the ability connect with anyone on any network, and back-up power during an outage, and fair billing practices, are what has made the phone system so successful. It is important to ensure our communications system remains a successful universal service for consumers.
The largest telephone companies in the U.S. recently announced they are upgrading the technology that delivers phone service. Because the phone systems will transfer to Internet Protocol, this is referred to as the “IP transition”. The U.S. telephone system is a universal communications system that keeps families connected, acts as a lifeline in times of crisis, and is an economic engine for small businesses. Over the coming months, the Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies will be considering how to roll out this transition.
This new technology has the potential to provide better, faster, and cheaper phone service. As technology develops, this is an exciting and inevitable advancement in telecommunications. However, to ensure that our communities continue to benefit from this system, the process must be implemented properly. There needs to be effective trials that don’t leave communities vulnerable, like the recent trials in New York and New Jersey did. These new technologies are largely unregulated, so the transition also needs to maintain the consumer protections that made the traditional phone system so successful.
The FCC recently announced plans to begin the first stages of voluntary IP transition trials in select areas of the country, in order to test the viability of an IP-based communications infrastructure. The FCC will aim for these trials and the transition to be implemented with a framework that adheres to the values of the current network.
Additionally, going forward, the actual work of implementing successful telecommunications policies relies on authorities in all levels of government. This means that, in addition to federal authorities like the FCC, state and local regulators will have an important role to play in the phone network transition. State and local regulators have long played a vital role to the governance of the phone network, and they should continue to do so as carriers update their network technology.
Public Knowledge is working to ensure that the IP transition provides for the five following fundamentals:
- Service to all Americans
- Competition & Interconnection
- Consumer Protection
- Network Reliability
- Public Safety
To learn more check out the following:
Public Knowledge released an toolkit for understanding the phone network transition in December 2012 entitled What’s the Hangup.
We produced a white paper for PKThinks entitled Five Fundamentals of the Phone Transiton, which has been widely adopted.
We produced educational one-pagers on the following topics:
- The lessons of the transition attempt in Fire Island, NY
- The impact of the transition on rural communities
- The importance of effective trials during the transition
- Section 214, which ensures consistent and reliable communications services
- The impact of the transition on small businesses
- The three aspects of the FCC transition trials
- A background on Verizon's Voice Link service
Here are the PK experts on this issue: