The FCC voted today to eliminate what it called “unnecessary regulatory hurdles for carriers seeking to move from the networks of yesterday to the networks of tomorrow.” Specifically, the commission streamlined carriers’ ability to discontinue legacy services as they undergo a TDM-to-IP transition.

TDM-to-IP Transition Requirements
Details of the order adopted at today’s monthly FCC meeting include:

  • Requiring 10 days for public comment when a carrier wants to discontinue lower-speed data services and already provides replacement services supporting speeds of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.  Grandfathering is allowed in 25 days, barring substantive objections.
  • Relieves carriers of discontinuance approval obligations for services with no customers and no reasonable requests for services within the preceding 30 days.
  • Facilitates rapid restoration of communications networks damaged in natural disasters by eliminating advance notice and waiting period requirements for network changes.
  • Eliminates education and outreach requirements for carriers discontinuing legacy voice services in the transition to IP services.
  • Allows a carrier to seek streamlined discontinuance of legacy voice services when the carrier provides stand-alone interconnected VoIP throughout its affected service area and at least one other stand-alone, facilities-based voice service is available from another provider.
  • Eliminates what the commission called “unnecessary and burdensome or redundant” notifications of changes that could impact compatibility of customer premises equipment.

The latter three items undoubtedly will be unpopular with some stakeholders.

At least one consumer group – Public Knowledge – already has voiced opposition  to the relaxed rules. And at today’s FCC meeting,  Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who dissented in part in the vote, pointed to the potential impact of the relaxed rules on a hypothetical elderly grandmother.

“She just wants to know that her phone, her health monitor and her alarm system, all of which rely on her current network, continue to work,” commented Rosenworcel. “She wants a head up. She wants to be able to navigate this change and understand what will require a new contract. . .  She wants to know at what cost. But today, the FCC says she doesn’t need her carrier to provide her with this information. That’s because she can check with the FCC’s Daily Digest and figure it out for herself. Who are we kidding? This is mean.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, however, argued that the relaxed rules, along with other reforms involving the TDM-to-IP transition, could “free up billions of dollars, which carriers can devote to building new networks instead of propping up old ones.”

Associations representing telecom service providers echoed Pai’s comments.

“Regulations from the past shouldn’t haunt broadband providers as they build modern networks that support next-generation services,” said USTelecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter in a prepared statement.

“The revisions adopted today strike a thoughtful balance between two important public policy priorities – enabling technology transitions and protecting consumers,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.