The Future and its Friends

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on April 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Virginia Postrel’s famous book contrasted two different attitudes toward the future. One, which she called “stasism,” is focused on controlling and directing forces of change based on preconceived notions of how the future should unfold or, worse yet, a nostalgia for an idealized past. The other, which she called “dynamism,” embraces the unplanned (indeed “unplannable”) future with hope, as well as humility regarding human power to control phenomena that arise from the countless, decentralized decisions of individuals.

One might ordinarily expect a regulatory agency like the FCC to fall into the camp of stasists almost by default. After all, their job is to “regulate,” which can be another way of saying “control.” But Postrel recognized the need for some minimal set of rules to protect an environment in which all those decentralized decisions can be made. And sometimes even a regulator can surprise you.

Today, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking on modernizing its rules around the assignment of telephone numbers for IP-based service providers. The current rules, (like so many FCC rules), go back to the days when plain old telephone service was king and VoIP was a plaything for hobbyists. They do not permit IP-based providers like Vonage to obtain numbers directly from the numbering administrators. Instead, such providers must go to their TDM competitors in order to obtain telephone numbers.

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TOPICS: FCC, IP Transition, VoIP
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A Turning Point

Posted by: Frank Simone on December 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Today, USTelecom filed a petition requesting that the FCC declare that traditional phone companies  no longer possess market power when providing switched access services, or more plainly, “plain old telephone service” (POTS), and therefore are no longer subject to dominant carrier regulation under the Commission’s rules. Given the many ways all of us communicate with each other these days this seems pretty obvious, but let’s review some of things that have brought us to this point.

The changes occurring in the communications landscape over the past several decades have forever changed the way we reach out and touch someone.   For those of us with children, the changes are apparent every time we examine our “telephone” bill, and a quick review of mine over the last six months starkly illustrates the point.  Each month on my mobile phone account, my unused AT&T “roll over” voice minutes grow as voice calling becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the communications options my family uses.  Thousands of incoming and outgoing mobile text messaging details, most of which are associated with my children’s phones, fill the majority of the call details outlined on my bill.  The ratio of text messages to voice minutes for my children is three to one.  Interestingly, almost exactly the reverse is true for my wife and me.  And what is missing from my home phone and mobile phone bills is as profound as what is included.  Missing are the hundreds of voice minutes that have been replaced by email threads, tweets and status updates on social networking websites.

And despite the obvious shift observable in our children, you would be wrong to think the communications shift is limited to those born after AT&T was split into “Baby Bells” in 1984.  The very first “baby boomers,” born in 1946, are also switching from landlines to new technologies.  Fifty-three percent of Americans aged 65 and over use the Internet and email, and 31% of Americans aged 55 to 64 use smartphones.

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AT&T Statement on FCC’s
VoIP Outage Reporting Order

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm

The following statement may be attributed to Bob Quinn, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer:

“While we will need to review the FCC’s order, we are pleased that the Commission was willing to work with us to focus on rules that give the agency visibility into outages that affect 911 service for Voice over IP subscribers.  We look forward to continuing to work with the FCC to ensure that its regulations are narrowly tailored to achieve their stated goal of protecting consumers.”

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Comcast and the Throes of Addiction

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on October 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm

It’s time to chalk up another victim to the addictive qualities of access charges.  

For more than a decade, cable companies have fought vigorously to avoid entanglement of their broadband IP networks with common carrier regulation.  Now, for less than a penny a minute, Comcast seems ready to say “the heck with all that.”  

In recent weeks, Comcast has proposed certain changes to the FCC’s rules that govern competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) access charges.  In particular, Comcast has asked the FCC to eliminate a rule that prohibits CLECs from charging for functions that they don’t actually perform.  No, that’s not a typo.  Comcast wants the FCC to allow CLECs (and this includes Comcast’s own CLEC affiliates) to charge for access services whether they provide them or not. This request is surpassingly ironic in that VoIP providers have spent much of the last 10 years insisting that they should never have to pay access charges.  Today, we filed a letter with the Commission explaining why Comcast’s proposal is not only unlawful but also unwise.

In a nutshell, Comcast wants the FCC to make a rule saying that as long as a CLEC provides the telephone number listed in the number portability database, that CLEC should be able to charge the same amount as an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) that terminates a call to an end user over its plain old telephone service (POTS) network. The implication of this proposal is that as long as a CLEC provides the telephone number, it’s safe to conclude that the CLEC provides a service equivalent to all of the other functions – and the associated costs – included in access charges. Nothing could be further from the truth.  And, here’s why.

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VoIP Confusion

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on September 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Reactions to the submission of the ABC Plan and the announcement of the unprecedented joint framework for reform have been overwhelmingly positive. I think it’s fair to say that virtually everyone agrees with the premises that we must transform universal service into a program focused on broadband, not POTS (plain old telephone service), and we must, at the same time, reform intercarrier compensation in a measured way that addresses arbitrage and reduces reliance on implicit subsidies. The ABC Plan accomplishes both objectives.

Nonetheless, some parties have raised concerns about certain components of the plan. One issue that has drawn some criticism is the plan’s proposal for the treatment of traffic exchanged between telecom carriers that originates and/or terminates with a VoIP user. – The plan proposes that such traffic be treated like other traffic exchanged between telecom carriers, except that intrastate access charges would not be applied.

Click here to read more.

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