WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission today launched a broad set of
voluntary experiments meant to ensure that the nation’s communications networks continue to provide the services consumers want and need in this era of historic technological transformations.
Driven by developments in the marketplace, technology transitions in communications networks are already well underway. They include, for example, the transition from plain old telephone service delivered over copper lines to feature-rich voice service using Internet Protocols, delivered over coaxial cable, fiber, or wireless networks.
The FCC’s experiments will focus on how the enduring values underlying operation of today’s networks can be preserved and enhanced throughout technological change. These values are fundamental:
Public safety communications must be available no matter the technology
All Americans must have access to affordable communications services
Competition in the marketplace provides choice for consumers and businesses
Consumer protection is paramount
New technologies can deliver efficient, innovative services to consumers, spark investment, and grow the economy. But at this time, consumers can revert to legacy services if the newer technologies
don’t meet their needs. When adoption of new technologies reaches critical mass, many providers may ask the FCC for permission to cease offering those legacy services.
These experiments will gather information in three broad areas:
Service-based experiments: Providers are invited to submit proposals to initiate tests of providing IP-based alternatives to existing services in discrete geographic areas or situations.
Proposals are due by Feb. 20, followed by a public comment and reply period ending on March 31, and final decision on the proposals made at the FCC’s May meeting.
Targeted experiments and cooperative research: These experiments will explore the impact on specific values, including universal access and competition.
Rural America: Experiments will focus on ways to deliver robust broadband to rural areas
People with disabilities: development and funding of interagency research on IP-based technologies for people with disabilities
Telephone numbering in all-IP world: a numbering testbed will address concerns raised about number assignment and databases in an all-IP world, without disrupting current systems
Data improvement: Reform of the FCC’s consumer complaint and inquiry process to collect better data
on how technological change is impacting consumer values
Intergovernmental collaboration (state, local and Tribal governments) to better understand consumer impact
Collection and analysis of data on next-generation 911 systems in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National 911 office and public safety associations.
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