NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Transitioning to Broadband

April 18, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued an Internet Protocol Technology Transitions Order, inviting trial experiments on the transition from a telephone-based network to an Internet-based one. The FCC -- and other government agencies -- have lagged behind the American public in their acceptance of broadband technologies. While Americans have switched to smartphones and other services in place of traditional telephone services, the FCC continues to cling to the old telephone network, says Richard Bennett, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The FCC's latest invitation for broadband trials contains 17 "status quo-preserving" requirements for any proposed experiments.

  • The FCC lists four "enduring values" that must be met, including public safety, universal access, competition and consumer protection.
  • As for safety, the FCC's conditions range from retaining 911 capabilities to network security requirements. As security is one of the most serious problems for IP networks, the FCC's requirement of "reasonable measures" to protect against security threats may need greater attention.
  • One of the agency's requirements relating to competition is that it demands that competitors be able to access a firm's network. This type of open access is inappropriate when there are no monopolies, and it suppresses investment.
  • The FCC insists that networks maintain reasonable expectations of privacy, but it does not provide details here. The FCC needs to make its position as to what constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy in today's digital age much clearer.

AT&T has filed a request to conduct transition experiments in two locations -- Carbon Hill, Alabama, and Delray Beach, Florida.

Bennett writes that the FCC's focus on preserving the status quo means that the agency has done little to actually look at the benefits of an Internet protocol transition. With competitive markets and a wide variety of communications capabilities, there is no need for guaranteed access requirements and other regulations currently in place.

Source: Richard Bennett, "Wake Up, FCC: The Internet Protocol Transition Is Now," American Enterprise Institute, April 3, 2014.


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