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]