ATIS: Carrier Regulation Threatens IP Transformation
Making a pitch for much lighter regulations, the ATIS Consolidation & Convergence Task Force notes that regulatory rules could require incumbents to maintain some existing infrastructure after it’s not longer useful or cost-effective to do so. It also says that existing regulations, based on arcane things such as LATAs -- local access and transport areas -- make little sense in an era where it matters little where a call starts or ends.
"The U.S. government’s goal of universal access to broadband may not be met in a timely or efficient manner if providers are forced to continue to provide basic exchange service in compliance with legacy federal and state regulatory regimes,” the report states. “Such an outcome would require ongoing investment in 'old technology' and maintenance of two networks.”
Moving to IP technology enables incumbents to replace large digital circuit-switches with smaller and more energy-efficient softswitches and gateways, and to consolidate central offices, eliminating some CO buildings and cutting costs significantly. (See CTIA 2011: Genband Pushes Rescue Plan for Aging Switches.)
But that kind of major restructuring can run afoul of things such as existing collocation requirements, which allow competitive carriers to put their equipment in a CO, and rules that require incumbents to be "carriers of last resort (COLRs)."
That COLR status was associated with an exclusive local franchise, but while that exclusivity no longer exists, the requirements for serving all customers does, and that could force incumbents to maintain copper lines and some COs even when their IP networks have moved on, the report states.
"Because these state requirements are not uniformly imposed on all service providers, the migration to broadband and IP-based services cannot occur successfully for COLRs without transitioning away from the legacy state regulatory requirements," the report states.
There are key current FCC proceedings that will affect how incumbents can manage the transformation to all-IP networks including the FCC's plan for changing the current Universal Service Fund into a mechanism for funding broadband, the revision of Intercarrier Compensation and the FCC's net-neutrality rules, now facing a court challenge. (See FCC Proposes USF Reform and FCC Plan to Revamp USF, Intercarrier Payments .)
The report deals with many other of the challenges and opportunities that service providers face in trying to migrate from today's hybrid world of multiple technologies to an all-IP and mostly fiber optic network.
One recommendation likely to draw fire from competitive carriers involves allowing incumbents that have deployed fiber optics in their local loop plant to decommission the copper lines still there, to eliminate the cost of operating two networks. Competitive service providers have fought to keep copper networks in place as their means of accessing customers, saying that cutting the copper cord effectively locks in that customer to an incumbent.
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading