The telecom industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation, and the regulatory framework should adjust to reflect the new reality.
Today, there are likely more households that have chosen to “cut the cord” and subscribe only to wireless service than there are households that subscribe to a switched-access service provided by an ILEC. And the number of households using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service will soon surpass the number of households subscribed to an ILEC switched access service.
These statistics are just the most obvious sign of a profound and accelerating technological and societal shift away from “plain old telephone service” (POTS) offered over the legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN) to IP-based services offered over fixed and mobile broadband networks.
In recognition of these facts, the FCC has focused significant resources recently on preparing for the demise of the PSTN and the transition to IP-based networks. In fact, the FCC has established a policy goal of modernizing its rules to “accelerate the transition from circuit-switched to IP networks, with voice ultimately one of many applications running over fixed and mobile broadband networks.” This effort is fundamentally at odds with the continued treatment of ILECs as “dominant” when offering switched access voice services.
The FCC has made a timely decision to deploy a special task force to study the vast changes that have occurred across communications industries, reshaping competition and creating a vast array of new choices for consumers and businesses. This task force will make recommendations on how best to cope with the broad-ranging changes in technology.
USTelecom believes in today’s changing marketplace, it no longer makes sense as a matter of economics or public policy to continue to treat ILECs as the dominant provider of voice services.
Accordingly, USTelecom has filed a petition that asks the FCC to eliminate unfair regulation of ILECs in the highly competitive local telephone services market. ILECs are but one of many types of competitors that offer voice service to consumers and businesses, so they shouldn’t be singled out for “dominant carrier” regulations that are vestiges of a market structure that no longer exists.
Carriers of all sizes are being forced to address the transition from the PSTN to all IP networks. Removing unnecessary regulation will help by providing regulatory parity and permitting more opportunities for open competition.