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Do Copper Rules Belong in an All-IP World?

Dan Jones
12/12/2012
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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners this week dropped some of the strongest hints yet that they will back plans by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless to move away from supporting copper lines.

On Tuesday, the FCC created a new task force to examine AT&T's Nov. 7 request for the agency to "facilitate the transition" from the "TDM-based, circuit-switch network" to a wired and wireless IP future. (See AT&T Puts Up $14B to Boost Broadband.) Incumbent carriers are subject to a 1913 Carrier Of Last Resort (COLR) rule that requires them to provide every American household with access to a landline. Verizon says it has gotten deals from some states to drop those requirements; AT&T, meanwhile, has urged regulators to update the rules. (See 4G Kills the Copper Plant.)

At a broadband-focused Senate hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R, Ill.) asked FCC commissioners about the "end of the copper era" and how the agency plans to deal with it.

"Those kind of regulations no longer make sense in an all-IP world," stated FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, while noting that the agency will need to work to ensure that people can get 911 services over their Internet-based communications platforms.

Fellow commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted that a third of all American households use wireless as their only phone service.

Regulations should incent, rather than penalize, broadband investments by carriers, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. (See Verizon Swaps Sandy-Ravaged Copper for Fiber .)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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