The FCC said Thursday that it is ready to start testing alternatives to copper, such as fiber or wireless, a move that will be music to the ears of large incumbents like AT&T and Verizon.
"Driven by developments in the marketplace, technology transitions in communications networks are already well underway," the agency states in the order. "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 government body states that these new technologies must adhere to a set of "enduring values" to be considered. These include:
- 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
Carriers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are currently subject to the Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) rule from 1913 that states that every American household should have access to a phone line.
On November 7, 2012, AT&T petitioned the FCC to update its rules so that wired or wireless IP systems can be considered as a replacement for the traditional copper phone-line system. Verizon, meanwhile, has been working with state governments to get COLR rules changed.
Something over a year later, the FCC is inviting Providers "to submit proposals to initiate tests of providing IP-based alternatives to existing services in discrete geographic areas or situations."
Proposals are due by February 20, followed by a public comment and reply period ending on March 31. Final decision on the proposals will be made at the FCC's May meeting.
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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading