FCC sets new rules to govern PSTN transition

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took steps last week to regulate the transition of legacy PSTN networks as telcos replace their copper with fiber and move their circuit switched networks to fully IP-based platforms. The vote was three to two along political party lines.

In their statement, the FCC noted the ruling was made to “encourage the ongoing transition to next-generation communications networks by giving consumers a larger voice in the process, giving providers the certainty they need to invest, and protecting competition.”

Under the ruling, the FCC will now require providers to directly notify consumer and business retail customers with at least three months notice of plans to retire copper networks.   The new rules also increase the notice period for interconnecting carriers from three months to at least six months.

While carriers do not have to secure advance FCC approval before they replace their copper networks, if they plan to discontinue, reduce, or impair any service, then existing regulations under Section 214 of the Communications Act require that they must first receive FCC approval before doing so.

The latest rules also require that any replacement services be offered to competitive providers (e.g. CLECs) “at rates, terms and conditions that are reasonably comparable to those of the legacy services.”

The FCC said in its statement that this is to be considered an interim measure until it completes “special access proceeding which is examining these issues more broadly.”

Demonstrating that further regulatory action on telco network transition is forthcoming, the FCC also asked for further comments from consumers and the industry to clarify these standards along with further regulatory criteria, which will include:

  • Support for 911 services and call centers
  • Network capacity and reliability
  • Quality of both voice service and Internet access
  • Interoperability with devices and services, such as alarm services and medical monitoring
  • Access for people with disabilities, including compatibility with assistive technologies
  • Network security in any IP-supported network that is comparable to the legacy network
  • Coverage throughout the service area, either by the substitute network or via service from other provider, and
  • Plan for outreach to affected consumers.
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