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AT&T pressing FCC to drop landline requirement

updated 10:35 am EST, Wed December 30, 2009

Carrier asks FCC to phase out land phones

AT&T in an FCC commentary submission has asked the government agency to drop its requirements that it and other phone carriers must offer analog landline service. The carrier points to the sharp drop in landline use, including revenue, and that a full 80 percent of American homes use cellphones or Internet calling either alongside analog landlines or even exclusively. Only the remaining 20 percent uses just a conventional phone line and is likely to see its share shrink in the future, AT&T says.

In its argument, the provider not only demands that it be free to stop offering landlines but that the FCC should set a fixed timetable for discontinuing service and implement rule changes that would streamline the move towards cellular and Internet services. Among these, the company wants to move the regluation of high-speed Internet access up to the federal level, change how carriers are supposed to compensate each other for completing calls, repurpose the Universal Service Fund away from funding traditional phones, and to let carriers serve only some of the customers in a designated geographical area.

Critics have cautioned that the 20 percent often involves poorer residents that can't necessarily afford the alternatives and that carriers themselves haven't offered a plan of their own to reach these customers with cellphones or VoIP. Some of the regulatory proposals have also come under fire in the past, particularly the requests to drop geographical requirements; customers of wired Internet service have pointed to ISPs often refusing to serve rural customers or poorer neighborhoods and often deploying upgrades first in wealthier communities. [via GigaOM]



By Electronista Staff
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  1. solafide

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007

    +6

    Interesting...

    It is interesting that AT&T, whose network is groaning under the weight of current traffic is looking to add more traffic.

    If this moves ahead:
    1. All geographic areas currently served by landlines must be served at an equal service level by cell phone.
    2. The structure and level of cell phone service must be changed to reflect the current choices available to landline owners - flat rates for unlimited local phone service, and a choice of low-cost long distance plans.

    I doubt AT&T (or their competitors, to be fair) would like either of these conditions, but the main consideration has to be the consumer. We have to have choice and not be forced into a monopolistic pricing plan. With choice, the consumer has the ability to "vote" what carrier/service they want to support, forcing companies to actually compete and serve the consumer, rather than the consumer simply serving shareholders.

  1. bjojade

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007

    +1

    Wireless makes sense.

    The traditional wired phone is on its way out. Wireless communication is where its at. It's easier to put up a tower to serve an area than to run wires to each and every home. of course you have bandwidth limitations, but that can be addressed with newer technology.

    Yes, today, (and probably for the foreseeable future), you can get higher speed internet via a wire than you can wirelessly. However, we're getting to the point where the wireless connection is fast enough for the residential user. That in itself is pretty exciting.

  1. _Rick_V_

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2003

    +5

    Re: Interesting...

    @ solafide

    AT&T's petition isn't arguing that cellphones are replacing landlines. They are arguing that people are replacing their household analog phone with a digital one thru their cable company.

    Right now, by federal law, the phone companies have to provide analog service to every home in the U.S. that wants it-- this is quite a burden for any regional phone company, and is proving to be less and less necessary.

    My guess is that the law would be somehow re-written so that every household is entitled to phone service, but how that service is delivered is flexible. (and may lead to such things as, requiring the cable companies to provide phone service without a cable TV plan, for example).

    -Rick

  1. bojangles

    Senior User

    Joined: May 2000

    +8

    Here's the problem with that:

    First of all, I have a cell phone. It's broken and has been sitting in a drawer for the last four months. I haven't missed it one bit.

    As for our home service, we still use an analog landline and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, for one reason:

    RELIABILITY

    What happens if you have VOIP and the cable goes out?
    What happens if you have VOIP and the electricity goes out?
    What happens if you have cell service and the tower goes out?
    What happens if you have cell service and the battery dies?

    Conversely, what happens if you have an analog landline and virtually anything in the world goes wrong? There's not a heck of a lot, short of a nuclear attack, that can knock out POTS.

    I know which one I want to have, in an emergency.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +2

    Re: interesting

    AT&T's petition isn't arguing that cellphones are replacing landlines. They are arguing that people are replacing their household analog phone with a digital one thru their cable company.


    No, they want to lose the requirements altogether, not just for providing lines, but also the service requirement. Which means they want to be able to say "Well, we support 50 of the 80 people in this area, that's enough" and leave the others with no communication capability at all.

    this is quite a burden for any regional phone company, and is proving to be less and less necessary.

    How is it less necessary? There are huge swaths in the US where there's no cell service. And you can be sure if there's no cell service, there ain't no high-speed internet lines coming either. So are they going to be adding towers to all the places they're ignoring now, or do they just want to go the 'free market' system of providing service where it makes financial sense?

    Which is why they get money from the Universal Service fund to pay them to do it. And notice they want to 're-purpose' that, too. They want to keep the money, but use it for 'other' things that they can profit from.

  1. alansky

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2000

    +1

    Oh yeah?

    I smell a rat! One thing we can be sure of: AT&T has only one thing in mind--to increase profits at the expense of service to their customers.

  1. lkrupp

    Junior Member

    Joined: May 2001

    +1

    comment title

    "I smell a rat! One thing we can be sure of: AT&T has only one thing in mind--to increase profits at the expense of service to their customers."

    Verizon, my dear at&t hater, has already been selling off its landline business in the midwest. A Verizon executive has been quoted as saying that, as far as landlines go, Verizon doesn't even consider them to exist any more. Kinda puts at&t's statement in perspective doesn't it. I can't wait for the at&t haters to focus their wrath on Verizon when it suffers the same fate, network wise, when the iPhone or Droid numbers catch up to them. It's gonna be absolutely hilarious to see Verizon's network choke just like at&t. Same goes for T-Mobile, Sprint, you name it.

  1. Athens

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: Jan 2003

    +4

    Why is it only American networks choaking

    the iPhone didn't cause Fido/Rogers to choak in Canada, nor any other places in the world.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -1

    Re: Here's the problem with that:

    As for our home service, we still use an analog landline and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, for one reason:

    RELIABILITY

    What happens if you have VOIP and the cable goes out?
    What happens if you have VOIP and the electricity goes out?
    What happens if you have cell service and the tower goes out?
    What happens if you have cell service and the battery dies?


    Well, what happens if the power is lost at the switching station, or before it even gets there?
    What happens if a work crew cuts the lines to your neighborhood as they're working on some job?

    There's not a heck of a lot, short of a nuclear attack, that can knock out POTS.

    Yes, that back-hoe thing would never happen.

    And while POTS might be analog to your house, it isn't analog all the way. At some point, possibly even at the street, they can just convert it all to digital. You might have analog, just not as far as you think.

  1. WaltFrench

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2003

    +2

    Times DO Change, But AT&T is way early

    Universal Service was a great boon to interconnecting all Americans back when voice was cutting edge. And the FCC is now working on a proposal supporting universal broadband throughout the US as a second stage of it.

    There are problems pro and con with abandoning Universal service:
    Pro- Universal Service requires Americans who choose to live in big cities to subsidize the higher cost of rural Americans. Many rural Americans choose to live outside of the cities PRECISELY BECAUSE they do not care to pay for the expenses of being interconnected with neighbors, etc. Whatever social benefits we get from having everybody able to access the InterTubes, the people who already have chosen to pay for broadband will essentially be subsidizing those who opted out. Bad use of dollars.

    Con: Landlines are as close as you get to what economists call a "natural monopoly" in that if AT&T opts out of running wires to my (urban, even) house, no competitor would be able to jump in and put up poles, run wires, etc., so I can get service. Allow "90% is good enough" logic to hold, and those who WANT to keep landline for whatever reason will be forced to pay through the nose because they will NOT have a choice. Horrible economics.

    Con: this discussion does not address customers' sunk costs in equipment. This includes relatively recent devices such as satellite boxes that need a phone connection to get codes and alarm systems that need a landline to call emergency services -- the cops or a monitoring service. There are all sorts of other low-bandwidth services that don't need the speed, expense and/or unreliability of an internet connection, and mountains of equipment that can't use it.

    OTOH, I would just LOVE for AT&T to guarantee 99.9% availability for my wireless that I enjoy on my landline.

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