The FCC today adopted, by a unanimous vote, an Order, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Notice of Inquiry regarding Technology Transition Trials. These trials are not designed to test technology but to test how the FCC’s core “values underlying operation of today’s networks can be preserved and enhanced throughout technological change.” The FCC voted to a) invite providers to initiate trials of IP technology in discrete geographic areas; and b) adopt specific targeted experiments focusing on rural Broadband; Disability Access; Telephone Numbering in all-IP environment; Improving the FCC’s data collection process. The FCC’s Acting General Counsel/Task Force Director also noted that in the spring, the FCC will issue a schedule by which the FCC will confront and answer the biggest questions regarding competition and other values in an all-IP world.
The FCC’s core values, discussed by Chairman Wheeler in terms of a “network compact” in his speeches are: i) Public safety communications must be available no matter the technology; ii) universal access to affordable services; iii) Competition and iv) Consumer protection.
Invitation to Providers to Test IP-based alternatives to existing services
Proposals due to FCC by Feb. 20, 2014
Chairman Wheeler stressed that the trial should not result in a downgrade of service in terms of reliability, availability, public safety and competition. The staff also stressed that the trials are voluntary – both for companies and their customers and analogized to control groups in scientific tests - in other words customers sticking with TDM are in the control group while other customers may be willing to test new services.
The FCC will evaluate proposals on the basis of consumer notice and feedback and the quality of data and its public availability. The staff indicated that the Order includes some conditions that applicants must meet, such as 911 must work and there must be access for disabled. Other conditions may be rebutted – for example compliance with notice of network change rules and compliance with intercarrier compensation rules. If an applicant can provide a strong public interest justification for waiving those requirements the FCC will consider such relief on a case-by-case basis.
Rural Broadband: The FCC will authorize an experiment to bring advanced broadband services to rural America using the Connect America fund. The staff emphasized that this effort will neither increase the CAF fund nor delay implementation of Phase II of the CAF process. This experiment will have a 2 part application that is s due on March 7, 2014.
TRS Research: FCC will budget $3 million to develop and finance research on IP-based technologies for disabled and will conduct a workshop on improving relay services.
IP-based Numbering: FCC will sponsor a numbering experiment to analyze long term numbering issues regarding numbering and databases in an all-IP world.
Data Collection Improvement: FCC will examine reforms of consumer complaint process to track how technology changes impact consumers; collaboration with local, state and tribal governments. With respect to next generation 911 issues the FCC will coordinate with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s 911 office and other public safety stakeholders.
Further updates to this alert will follow upon receipt of the full order.
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This article was originally published by Bingham McCutchen LLP.