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GOP Pans Plan for IP Voice Transition

WASHINGTON — In a move tied to the transition to IP phone services, the Federal Communications Commission voted last week to require the major telcos to continue providing cable operators and other competitors access to their networks on reasonable terms and conditions when they transition from traditional circuit-switched voice networks to fiber.

The measure is an interim one until the FCC completes its review of special access services in an voice-over-IP world. Cable’s telephony service counts on nondiscriminatory access to telco-controlled networks.

The item, approved in a 3-2 party-line vote, also requires carriers to give consumers notice of any changes and how they will be affected. The FCC also sought input on how to judge alternatives to services that will be sunset with the retirement of copper plant.

The FCC’s two Republican members slammed the decision.

Commissioner Ajit Pai said the FCC would be slowing down the IP transition and deepening the digital divide. “Chicken Little rules the roost,” he said. The FCC now requires carriers to seek permission before discontinuing almost “every [network] feature no matter how little-used or old-fashioned,” Pai added. “

Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly suggested the access requirement sounded like a backdoor to rate regulation.

Chairman Tom Wheeler said he chuckled at the suggestion of rate regulation. He said what the FCC was doing was reaffirming the compact between networks and the people who use them.

FCC Calls for Backup

WASHINGT ON — The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to require cable operators and other suppliers of fixed voice service to provide backup power sources on request, to ensure 911 calls can go through when the power is out.

It’s part of a larger FCC move to ensure that the network compact is not lost in the transition from copper-based traditional phone service to IP-based networks.

Key to cable operators and other fixed voice providers is that the requirement is not a mandate. Service providers must make backup power available — eight hours of backup immediately, and an additional option of 24 hours after three years — but only upon request by their subscribers. While there is a requirement that subs be informed annually of the availability of the backup service and various details about it, there will be flexibility as to how providers may inform those customers.