At its January 30, 2014, Open Meeting, the FCC authorized “experiments” to measure the impact on customers of technology transitions in communications networks. This includes the transition from plain old telephone service (POTS) delivered over copper lines to feature-rich voice service using Internet Protocols, delivered over coaxial cable, fiber, or wireless networks. The trials could begin as early as June, 2014.
The experiments will gather information in three broad areas:
- Service-based experiments: Providers are invited to submit proposals to initiate tests of providing IP-based alternatives to existing services in discrete geographic areas or situations. Proposals are due by Feb. 20, 2014. There will be a public comment and reply period ending on March 31, 2014. A final decision on the proposals made at the FCC’s May 2014 meeting.
- Targeted experiments and cooperative research: These experiments will explore the impact on specific values, including universal access and competition in the following areas.
- Rural America: experiments will focus on ways to deliver robust broadband to rural areas
- People with disabilities: development and funding of interagency research on IP-based technologies for people with disabilities
- Telephone numbering in all-IP world: a numbering test bed will address concerns raised about number assignment and databases in an all-IP world, without disrupting current systems.
- Data improvement:
- Reform of the FCC’s consumer complaint and inquiry process to collect better data on how technological change is impacting consumer values
- Intergovernmental collaboration (state, local, and Tribal governments) to better understand consumer impact
- Collection and analysis of data on next-generation 911 systems in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National 911 office and public safety associations.
The FCC said the experiments would focus on how the following values can be preserved and enhanced throughout technological change:
- Public safety communications must be available, no matter the technology
- All Americans must have access to affordable communications services
- Competition in the marketplace provides choice for consumers and businesses
- Consumer protection is paramount
The FCC said that the data gathered in these experiments will ensure that the ongoing public dialog about technology transition is based on solid facts and data. The data will guide the FCC as it makes “legal and policy choices that advance and accelerate the technology transitions while ensuring that consumers and the enduring values are not adversely affected.”
The FCC also said that consumers will be able to revert to legacy services if the newer technologies don’t meet their needs. When adoption of new technologies reaches critical mass, providers may ask the FCC for permission to cease offering legacy services. TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers, watch for our upcoming TMI Bulleting once the text is released.
Several TMI Regulatory Bulletin samples available below.