The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The IP Transition Is Coming

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


An innovative and ever changing communications landscape benefits everyone. This is one of the reasons the IP transition is an important component to the future of communications. While the evolution of the transition from copper to fiber may not necessarily be on everyone's radar screen, how this transition is managed will have ramifications for years to come. Proper preparation for the IP transition is key to ensuring success.

As often with new technological advances, there will always be concerns about how consumers will be affected.  The IP transition is no exception. However, as noted in a July 7, 2015 article in Fierce Telecom, conversion from copper to fiber provides benefits to both the company and the consumer, with reduced maintenance costs for providers, and increased capabilities for consumers, with offerings such as broadband, video, data, and voice transmissions.

On August 6, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by a vote of 3-2, passed a Report and Order on the transition from copper-wire telephone lines to fiber or IP-based networks. During the meeting, several members of the commission expressed concerns about various provisions in the order. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn worried that unlike the broadcast digital television migration, the FCC did not have funding available in its budget to prepare consumers for the IP transition; Commissioner Ajit Pai expressed his concern that the FCC was imposing unwieldy requirements for companies to maintaining the existing legacy copper plants rather than invest in new IP-based networks; and, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly raised the specter of increased enforcement activity where “a single complaint could subject a provider to an enforcement action, further diverting resources away from fiber investment.”

However, it seems that all commissioners agreed that the transition IP-based networks should include battery backup systems as a fail-safe against power outages that could prevent communications with 911 emergency services. Many companies are already doing this, but the FCC’s action reinforced the importance of continuity for emergency communications regardless of whether consumers are using copper-wire networks or those that are IP-based. As noted by Commissioner Pai, the adoption of a consumer-driven approach to back-up battery requirements enables consumers to choose the solution that is right for their particular desired level of disaster preparedness, rather than one prescribed by regulation.

According to the FCC, as of December 2012, at least 42 million households have already subscribed to interconnected Voice of Internet Protocol (VoIP), taking advantage of the advanced services that transitioning from copper-wire to fiber provides. It is important that companies continue to be allowed the opportunity to continue to innovate in new technologies without onerous restrictions that could dis-incentivize future investments in IP-based networks.

 

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