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FCC Chair pushing for phone networks to go all-IP

Fri, 11/22/2013 - 12:38pm
Ben Munson, Wireless Week

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to accelerate the transition of the nation’s phone systems to Internet Protocol (IP).

In a blog post outlining the FCC’s research on the impact of the transition, Wheeler said that the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force—assembled by former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at the behest of AT&T and NTCA—will present a status update at the Dec. 12 Commission meeting. With that research in hand, Wheeler expects the FCC by January to draft an order concerning experimentation, data collection, and policy, legal and technical outlines for the IP transition agenda.

Agreeing with Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mignon Clyburn, Wheeler said the FCC needs to expedite the IP transition process while carefully considering consumers, public safety and competition.

“The way forward is to encourage technological change while preserving the attributes of network services that customers have come to expect – that set of values we have begun to call the Network Compact,” Wheeler wrote.

In additional comments, Commissioner Pai said, “our regulations still reflect a 1970s view of technology and competition, preventing consumers and providers alike from realizing the full benefits of IP,” For that reason, he added, he is excited about the new order scheduled for January.

In a blog post, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs Jim Cicconi supported the Chairman’s plan.

“The geographic trials directed by Chairman Wheeler will provide the real world answers needed to ensure a seamless transition. We’re committed to work closely and constructively with the FCC and with all stakeholders to ensure this process succeeds and the goals set forth in the National Broadband Plan are achieved.”

Public Knowledge CEO Harold Feld stated further support of Wheeler’s IP transition initiative but added “It's important that the FCC show that this transition is not just about AT&T or any other carrier. It impacts the lives and well-being of every American. Nobody should doubt that this is a complex process, but it's important that the FCC lead the transition and take a major role in coordinating its outcome."

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