FCC starts testing IP-based telephone networks in selected locations

JC Torres - Jan 31, 2014
FCC starts testing IP-based telephone networks in selected locations

In what one commissioner called a “beta test” phase, the Federal Communications Commission has approved a program of trials that will study the shift to a new telephone network. This next generation infrastructure will make use of the same Internet Protocol or IP used for HD voice calls and videos delivered over the Web.

Taking its cue from a type of software development process commonly employed by tech start-ups, the FCC will only be testing the transition in select places in the US. Called “sandbox thinking”, this method of testing big ideas in bite-sized pieces can help the commission study the impact that a huge transition such as this would bring.

Consumers have been moving away from old phone networks in favor of more Internet-based services via their smartphones. Carriers are, unfortunately, still required to maintain those copper-based lines along the newer high-capacity networks, which definitely incurs double the maintenance costs. The new network will allow carriers to just have the same IP-based networks for all uses.

The program will be running tests to see how smooth, or rough, the transition to the new fiber optic phone networks will be. The tests will also try to see if emergency communications, essential in any phone network, will be adversely affected on IP networks. The FCC is encouraging carriers to submit proposals before February 20, which will be evaluated and decided on in their open meeting in May.

While the transition to new phone lines might seem advantageous on all fronts, consumer advocacy groups are warning taking things too far too quick. They are worried whether the transition would leave some in the US behind, particularly in areas where IP-based lines are not that common or in cases where subscriptions for such networks are prohibitively expensive.

SOURCE: Washington Post

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