POTS

CBIT White Paper: Broadband Transmissions Are Not “Telecommunications”

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Net Neutrality Series, Regulatory State | 3 Comments

This paper authored by Fred Campbell was filed yesterday at the Federal Communications Commission in General Docket No. 14-28.* The complete paper can be downloaded HERE.

The FCC lacks authority to classify broadband Internet services as “telecommunications services,” because broadband transmissions are not “telecommunications.” The definition of “telecommunications” in 47 U.S.C. § 153(50) distinguishes between (1) plain old telephone services (POTS) that are interconnected with the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and (2) packet switched services that are not interconnected with the PSTN. When determining whether a particular service is subject to common carriage obligations, arguments about the ownership of the underlying network facilities, “gatekeepers,” and innovation are definitionally irrelevant. A transmission is “telecommunications” with in the meaning of 47 U.S.C. § 153(50) only if the transmission is capable of communicating with all circuit switched devices on the PSTN.[1] Read More

A Primer on the Dangers of Imposing FCC Title II Regulations on the Internet

Posted by | Broadband Internet | One Comment

Any decision about FCC regulation of the broadband Internet must account for the sunset of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and the evolution of the Internet since the FCC issued its Cable Modem Order in 2002. The PSTN sunset and the design features of next generation networks have significant implications for Title II reclassification.

Reclassification Would Require Revisiting the Communications Act’s Core Definitional Conundrum

Title II regulates communications “services”, not particular types of infrastructure. For example, the definition of “telecommunications service” applies “regardless of the facilities used.” See 47 USC § 153(53).

The definitions of “information” and “telecommunications” services adopted in the 1996 Act track the distinction between “basic” and “enhanced” services that was adopted by the FCC in the Computer II proceeding’s Final Decision. See Verizon v. FCC, 740 F.3d 623, 630 (DC Cir. 2014).

In a post-PSTN world, there will no longer be any “basic” service as it was understood in the Computer II era or “telecommunications” as that term is defined in the 1996 Act.

Title II reclassification would thus require the FCC to revisit the core definitional conundrum of the Communications Act. The likely result is that many services that are currently unregulated would be subject to Title II regulation, including services that were once considered part of the Internet’s “edge”. Read More

CBIT Statement on FCC Action on IP-Transition

Posted by | Broadband Internet | No Comments

Washington, January 30, 2013The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today launched a proceeding to conduct trials for the transition of the plain old telephone network to all Internet Protocol (IP) networks, known as the IP-transition. The following is a statement by Fred Campbell, Executive Director of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology (CBIT):

“CBIT applauds the FCC’s decision to move forward on IP-transition trials. Consumers are abandoning plain old telephone service in droves for the superior functionality provided by high-speed Internet connections. But outdated regulations are discouraging investment in new infrastructure by diverting funds to maintain the aging telephone network. These trials will examine how communications policies must change to keep up with ongoing consumer demand.

The trials are a critical first step, but today’s action is only the end of the beginning. The faster the IP-transition is completed, the faster we will see new, competitive investment in modern communications infrastructure and new competitive choices for millions of Americans.”

The Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology (CBIT) advocates for market oriented government policies to advance innovation in technology. Additional information, blog posts and commentary about CBIT can be found on the CBIT website, cbit.org.

FCC Tariff Decision Is Not Consistent with the IP Transition, the National Broadband Plan, or the Law

Posted by | Broadband Internet | No Comments

Yesterday’s decision requiring AT&T to continue offering seven-year term discounts on POTS lines while the FCC conducts a meritless investigation is more than a drag – it is a government shackle on the deployment of modern IP-based infrastructure to rural and low-income consumers.

In early 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the National Broadband Plan (Plan) to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband Internet communications. The Plan concluded that “broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life” and urged that everyone “must now act and rise to our era’s infrastructure challenge.” (Plan at XI, XV) Yesterday the FCC threatened to turn its back on this call to action when it suspended revisions to AT&T tariffs that sought to stop offering term discount plans of five to seven years for 1960s era “Plain Old Telephone Service” (POTS) technology using circuit switched “special access” lines. The FCC suspended the tariff revisions for five months to investigate their “lawfulness” (even though the remaining tariff rates have already been conclusively presumed to be just and reasonable).

Ironically, at the open Commission meeting on Thursday, the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force will provide a status update on the National Broadband Plan’s recommendation that the FCC eliminate—within the next five to seven years—the requirement that AT&T and other carriers offer POTS technologies using circuit-switched networks (known as the “IP transition”).

Why would the FCC open a five-month investigation on Monday to determine whether it is “lawful” for AT&T to stop providing long-term discounts for services using outdated technologies the FCC will discuss eliminating altogether at its meeting on Thursday? Read More

IIA Paper Shows FCC Inaction on IP-Transition Threatens Harm to Consumers, Competition, and the Economy

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Regulatory State | 5 Comments

Today the Internet Innovation Alliance released a paper demonstrating three primary conclusions:

  1. Consumers are abandoning “plain old telephone service” (or “POTS”) in droves;
  2. The most regulated communications companies – i.e., the incumbent telephone companies (or “ILECs”) – are wasting enormous amounts of capital maintaining POTS rather than expanding their broadband networks; and
  3. As a result of this downward spiral of lost subscribers and wasted capital, ILEC wireline networks are struggling to compete with less regulated networks and communications companies – i.e., Internet, cable, and wireless companies.

The paper supports these conclusions with copious research data obtained from the FCC and other credible sources.

If there was any remaining doubt that the United States must (1) establish a deadline for shutting down the POTS network and transitioning to all Internet Protocol networks (the “IP-transition”) and (2) modernize its regulatory framework to eliminate the regulatory disparity that is hamstringing investment and competition among communications providers, the IIA paper has laid those doubts to rest for all (save those who are benefitting from the status quo, for whom I doubt any amount of data would prove sufficient).

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DoD Asks the FCC to Enhance Its Contractual Leverage Through Regulatory Fiat

Posted by | Broadband Internet | One Comment

“In today’s globally competitive era, the United States cannot continue to delay its transition to Internet-enabled infrastructure.”

Last week the Department of Defense (DoD) filed comments with the FCC in its proceeding examining the transition from outdated telephone technologies to Internet Protocol (the “IP-transition”). The comments, which were filed “on behalf of the consumer interests” of the DoD by a civilian attorney in the Army’s Regulatory Law Office (emphasis added), ask the FCC to “consider potential adverse consequences on public safety and national security” of requiring federal agencies to “prematurely transition to different technologies.”

What are these potential adverse consequences? The italicized “interests” of the DoD provide the answer: It wants to avoid incurring any costs to upgrade its outdated telephone technologies to modern, Internet Protocol technologies when its current communications contracts expire in 2017. Read More

Stalling the Transition to Internet Protocol Networks Would Harm Everyone

Posted by | Broadband Internet | No Comments

As I’ve noted previously, there is a broad, bi-partisan consensus that America must transition its outdated telephone network technologies to Internet Protocol (IP) to remain competitive in today’s global market, create new jobs, grow the economy, and provide consumers with better service. Though it is broad, this consensus is not unanimous.

A group led by Free Press is opposing the transition to all-IP networks. Free Press apparently believes that modernizing our communications networks would harm consumers in low-income households and households with senior citizens who disproportionately rely on low-cost “basic” telephone service.

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The Telecommunications Act of 1996 Turns Seventeen with No Future Plans

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Regulatory State | 2 Comments

Today marks the seventeenth birthday of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Since it became law nearly two decades ago, the 1996 Act has largely succeeded in meeting its principal goals. Ironically, its success is becoming its potential failure.

By the time most teenagers turn seventeen, they have already begun planning their future after high school. Their primary school achievements are only a beginning in a lifetime of future possibilities. For most legislation, however, there is no future after the initial goals of Congress are achieved. Fortunately, the seventeen year-old 1996 Act isn’t like most legislation.

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What Does Netflix’s Decision to Block Content Tell Us About Innovation and Investment in Internet Infrastructure?

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Video | One Comment

The Netflix debate tells us there is a yawning gap between the reality of current network architecture and the outdated theories supporting our regulatory policies. This gap is the single biggest threat to the virtuous cycle of invention, investment, and growth that have characterized the Internet over the last decade.

I’m having my own case of Cassandrafreude after reading the responses to my posts on Netflix’s decision to block consumer access to its new Super HD service. One commenter says it is a “great thing” that Netflix is relieving Internet congestion (a tacit admission that Internet congestion actually exists) by deploying computing power inside ISP networks. Another commenter suggests Netflix is attempting to “vertically integrate (from just content provider to content provider + CDN)” because “existing CDNs may not be equipped to handle the new traffic Netflix wants to push over them.”

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FCC Should State the Obvious: Telephone Service Is Not a Monopoly

Posted by | Broadband Internet | One Comment

“Given the rate at which telephone companies are losing customers when they cannot raise prices as a regulatory matter, it is preposterous to continue presuming that they could raise prices as an economic matter.”

Today, the United States Telecom Association (USTA) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to declare that incumbent telephone companies are no longer monopolies. Ten years ago, when most households had “plain old telephone service,” this request would have seemed preposterous. Today, when only one in three homes have a phone line, it is merely stating the obvious: Switched telephone service has no market power at all.

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