updated 06:15 am EST, Fri January 31, 2014
Call for experiments could help telecommunication providers get rid of copper-based landlines
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken its first steps in overhauling the analog telephone system in the United States, by authorizing voluntary testing by carriers. The unanimous vote will allow telecommunication providers, such as AT&T, to experiment with landlines in various ways, such as providing an IP-based telephone service to its customers.
Reuters notes the experiments would not be a test of the technology, as it already exists and is being used, but rather how the entire telephone system would operate if all lines were included. This includes if consumers would welcome the change, how it would work for rural or remote locations, and what would happen in an emergency. IP-based technologies for people with disabilities and updated telephony services can also be tested, along with asking how telephone numbering would work in an all-IP world, without disrupting current systems.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
Any proposals from companies will not become implemented immediately, as companies will have until February 20 to submit their proposals to the FCC. A debate over the ideas is expected in March, and a final decision by the FCC on which proposals will be tested will be published in May. Even then, the testing will "cover areas with different population densities and demographics, different topologies, and/or different season and meteorological conditions," with companies also expected to maintain all connections with consumers throughout.
"What we're doing here is a big deal. This is an important moment," claims FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, continuing "We today invite service providers to propose voluntary experiments for all-IP networks."
The testing will be helpful to providers, who currently offer copper wire-based landline services to customers and, in a number of cases, provide a broadband connection over fiber. "We cannot continue requiring service providers to invest in both old networks and new networks forever," advised Commissioner Ajit Pai.