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November 21st, 2013 10:06 am
Positive FCC News: Chairman Calls for IP Transition Testing
Posted by Print

America’s century-old telephone networks using analog and physical switch technology served us well from the days of Alexander Graham Bell to the dawn of the Internet.  Twenty-first century technology, however, demands a smooth and rapid transition to Internet-Protocol (IP) services.

Fortunately, there’s actually good news coming out of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on that critical issue.  As noted by The New York Times, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced this week that he’s directing staff to commence trials for the much-needed transmission:

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday that the agency would begin “a diverse set of experiments” next year that would begin to move the nation’s telephone system from its century-old network of circuits, switches and copper wires to one that transmits phone calls in a manner similar to that used for Internet data.  The Internet-based systems allow more information to be transmitted at one time, making possible the addition of video to phone calls, as employed by services like Skype and Vonage.  While consumers can already use those services, most of the legacy telephone networks still use analog technology, employing an out-of-date system of physical switches that is expensive to keep operating.  Those old networks make possible what is known in the communications industry as Plain Old Telephone Service, or POTS, and they use types of switches that in many cases are no longer manufactured, telephone company executives say.  The outdated switches limit the ability of companies to expand the networks to carry more traffic and impede a company’s ability to refurbish equipment.”

Some of the usual anti-market activist suspects, such as Public Knowledge, fear that the FCC’s comparatively limited authority to overregulate the Internet in the same way that it did existing telephone networks will mean a reduced ability of federal regulators to meddle as communications technology advances.  The reality, however, is that the transition to broadband and IP services has already begun as consumers freely migrate to more advanced connection methods.

The FCC should focus on what works in the real world, rather than hobble technology’s advance on the basis of unfounded fears, so this week’s announcement marks a welcome and positive milestone.

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