FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wants new rules for next-generation networks

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wants American telecoms to adopt new rules for next-generation networks.

In a blog post, Wheeler said his proposals – placed before other commissioners – are aimed to protect consumers and promote competition among wireless and broadband operators such as AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint, Verizon, Comcast, among others.

Wheeler said that phone and Internet providers are increasingly replacing their legacy copper networks with next-generation networks that enable greater broadband speeds, efficiency and capacity. He admits that FCC’s rules have not kept pace and do not facilitate the transitions.

Wheeler will circulate two items that would update the FCC’s rules to help deliver the promise of dynamic new networks and all their benefits while ensuring that consumers, businesses, governments, schools, libraries and hospitals have a voice in that transition.

If adopted at the Commission Open Meeting on August 6, these rules will give providers the certainty they need to invest, while protecting consumers, competition and public safety.

FCC plans to circulate a Report and Order that would ensure consumers have the information and tools necessary to maintain available communications at home during an emergency. Traditional, copper-based landline home phone service typically works during electric outages because the service provides its own power, but modern substitutes usually need backup power to keep
operating during a power outage.

If adopted, these rules would require providers of these substitutes, such as a cable company’s bundled voice service, to offer consumers the option to buy backup power so they can use their home phones during power outages.
Tom Wheeler of FCC

These providers would be required to ensure that a technical solution for 8 hours of standby backup power is available for consumers to purchase, either directly or from a third-party retailer, at the point of sale. Within three years, providers would also be required to offer an option for 24 hours of standby backup power.

The decision to purchase backup power from the provider would be up to consumers – they will not be forced to purchase equipment they do not want. The rules would require providers to inform current and new customers about service
limitations during electric outages and the steps they can take to address those risks through backup power, including how to keep their service operational during a multi-day power outage.

The new rules will protect consumers as copper networks are replaced by next-generation networks. Operators need to notify about their plans to retire copper networks. They need to give 6 months notice in advance for non-residential customers and three months in advance for residential customers, said FCC.

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