FCC Outlines New Rules for Service Providers Retiring Copper Phone Lines

Photo by Cameron Kirby on Unsplash

The U.S. is ditching copper landlines in favor of IP telephony (about time!), but the FCC is requiring providers to notify customers of such plans three months in advance, as well as supply backup power sources needed in case of an outage. IP telephony has major advantages over legacy phone networks, some of which we will outline in this article.

The regulatory body issued its announcement yesterday, addressing service providers with the following claims:

  • notify retail customers – including consumers and businesses – of plans to retire copper networks at least three months in advance
  • increase the notice period for interconnecting carriers from three months to at least six months, to protect competition
  • carriers can retire copper favor of fiber without prior Commission approval, but only as long as the service doesn’t suffer
  • to discontinue, reduce, or impair service, FCC approval is still required
  • competitive providers will be required to combine their own facilities with the last-mile services of incumbent providers to reach small and medium-sized businesses and institutions (schools, libraries, health care facilities, government offices)
  • service providers will be required to supply backup power sources (batteries) as part of the transition, but customers will have to foot the bill

Why are copper phone lines phased out?

The transition from copper-wire landlines to VoiP telephony has been an ongoing process for quite some time now. However, because traditional landlines are effectively approaching their end of life, the media is discussing it more.

The most obvious reason why this is happening is ‘progress.’ IP telephony is simply better tenfold because of the sheer number of features that you can have with it. The versatility and scalability of the technology makes it a no brainer for every service provider on the planet.

Secondly, an IP phone is cheaper any way you look at it. International calls cost a fraction of the amount you would pay with copper phone lines. Business users can set it to make calls from a computer, a tablet, or their personal smartphone, and it supports both voice and video at the same time (think FaceTime, or Skype). Call forwarding and voicemail-to-email are two more perks that businesses rely on and IP phones can deliver. And there are dozens of other features to be discussed, but we’ll leave those for a different occasion.

The bottom line is this is happening and it’s a good thing. While there may be some downsides as well – Internet / power outage means the phone cannot be used – it’s also important to note that communication today flows on more lanes than one. These compromises are almost irrelevant compared to the functionality you receive in exchange and, as any new technology, it will only get better and more reliable with time.

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