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FCC Suggests 'Pilot Programs' Before Killing Off Copper
As AT&T, Verizon Push to Quickly Kill Off DSL, POTS
by Karl Bode 01:11PM Monday May 13 2013
As noted last week, Verizon is informing Sandy victims who've been waiting for seven months that they'll never have their DSL lines repaired. Instead, users are being given Voice Link, a service that connects home phones to the Verizon Wireless network but has a few kinks and fails to offer data. It's part of a national effort by both AT&T and Verizon to gut the regulations governing copper networks -- so they can sever the huge parts of their networks they don't want to upgrade and drive these users either to wireless or their cable competitors marketing partners.

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For obvious financial reasons, AT&T and Verizon would prefer this happens quickly and without much thought as to the repercussions. As such both are framing this as an attempt to "modernize regulation" as we shift to an "all IP" future, even if tens of millions of customers -- including nealy all of AT&T's "next-gen" U-Verse users -- are still using said copper.

In Kansas and Kentucky, AT&T is using astroturfers to promise locals that if they eliminate regulations requiring they keep providing copper services at reasonable rates, those users will somehow see more broadband deployment (tip: they won't). Verizon has had the fortune of being able to use Sandy damage as a cover for the exact same strategy on the East Coast.

Both companies imply the death of the PSTN and copper is countered by expansion of fixed-line upgrades like FiOS and U-Verse -- except in reality that's not happening. With the exception of a few remaining cities -- deployment of those services was shelved years ago to focus on more profitable wireless. With next-gen expansion frozen and older DSL lines potentially being severed, we're potentially creating broadband coverage gaps at a time we profess to be eliminating them.

The migration away from copper requires some serious thought. AT&T and Verizon's plans will have a huge impact on those who'll lose DSL service entirely in areas these companies no longer want to service, those who'll lose functionality (see: Voice Link users), and those who'll pay much more for capped wireless than they ever did for uncapped DSL. The elimination of these lines also weakens competition and strengthens local cable monopolies, which will result in higher prices for cable users as well.

In a sign the FCC is at least taking some time to think about this transition, the agency late last week issued a Public Notice seeking comment on whether to conduct a "pilot program," whereby the agency could test the impact of carriers eliminating copper in exchange for wireless services or voice-over-IP (VOIP) service. That's not to say the FCC will actually do anything to help fix the myriad of problems the death of the PSTN will cause, but at least it shows they're not wholly oblivious to what is going on.

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Consumer group Public Knowledge argued the FCC's proposal was a good idea, since companies like Verizon are already conducting their own "trials" post Sandy.

"Verizon's decision to replace the copper network destroyed by Hurricane Sandy with untested technologies in communities like Fire Island, New York, show that without a clear path forward carriers will run their own 'pilot projects' without worrying about possible problems for the local communities," said the group. "Given this reality on the ground, the better approach is the one proposed by the FCC today. Design a real test program with adequate safeguards that will give us real data to inform the transition."

AT&T would prefer the FCC move faster with less thinkin' and such.

"Today's public notice is a step forward, though we are disappointed the FCC still appears tentative about dealing with the IP transition, especially when compared with the bold and visionary goals of the National Broadband Plan," the company said in a statement. "Certainly, this notice might yield some interesting information, and we will of course cooperate fully with the FCC. We also intend to provide further detail on our proposed geographic trials as requested today, though, we are puzzled it took the FCC six months to decide it needed such information."

Regular readers of course know our broadband plan isn't worth much, but to hear AT&T call it "bold and visionary" should confirm that for you. This will be a good litmus test for former lobbyist and upcoming new FCC boss Tom Wheeler to determine precisely which side of his bread is buttered.

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Recommended comments

Heave Steve, for the good of the country

1 edit

2 recommendations

Simple solution....

1) By decree, any pole/easement older than 10 years reverts to the municipality/country - effective immediately.

2) Feds guarantee muni bonds for FTTH install by municipal/county run networks if triple play is offered at under $80/month && minimum speed offered is 250/250 Mbps for 100% of homes passed.

3) Telco's ordered to maintain existing services & repairs in areas muni coverage is established for 3 years after the muni/county declares an area to have 100% customers passed (allow people to decide when they want to cut over). Failure to maintain/repair costs telco $1MM/day for the first 10 days, double that for the next 10 days, double again for the next 10 days, and 10x that thereafter.


Fullerton, CA
·Time Warner Cable
·AT&T DSL Service

5 recommendations

reply to rolande

Re: I don't understand

These telcos were paid hundreds of billions of dollars over more than 50 years to take care of that network, forced payments by us, the ratepayers. We had no option but to pay. They are monopolies, they were protected from competition all those years.

Now they'd rather not have to fool with us, but after they have been paid for all those years they can't walk away now. They were given FREE easements on all our property to run their business. I charge for that easement. If they want to go back and unwind 50 or more years of regulated payments I want to go back and bill them for those easements. And I am expensive.

They enjoyed that for 50 or more years. Now they want out of that so they can do whatever they want even if it's non competitive?

The government needs to improve the regulations on these companies. Not deregulate them. They cannot ever be deregulated. They got the money. They can just suck it up.

And ya know, fiber is cheap now. Cable companies have been able to successfully deploy fiber optics nationwide and they are not near losing money on it. So these telcos can just get the heck out there and dig.

They are still receiving payments, you know. Connect America. That USF fee on your bill, that you can do nothing about except just pay it. It goes to those same companies.

Space Elf
Mullica Hill, NJ

3 recommendations

reply to jmn1207

Re: Copper = Railroads?

Its too bad the government did not build Information Super-Highways like they did when passenger rail was dieing and people got cars and they built the Interstate System.

Its kinda sad we have great engineering under the belt of this country. First the railroads(Despite lack of press, The US has one of the greatest rail networks in the world however its primary use is cargo), Then the TVA and Rural Electrification act that brought electrical power to places oddly enough deemed unprofitable by private industry to power up, the Eisenhower Interstate System(considered by some the largest public works project in human history.), Yet we just cannot seem to build a national fiber optic broadband network.
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports


Catawissa, MO

2 recommendations

I think...

They should remove the regulations for AT & T. Then remove all monopoly obstacles so others can come in and compete in any AT&T/Verizon territory. Remove all exclusive franchise agreements and any regulations crafted by the telcos.

They want regulations that prohibit them from doing what they want. I guarantee they balk if the regulation removal includes regulations that help them protect their monopolies.


Canonsburg, PA

3 recommendations

FTTP should be required

Incumbent telcos should be required to provide fiber to the premises to an area before being allowed to kill off POTS there.