New PKThinks White Paper: A Deeper Dive Into the Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network Transition

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PKThinks' newest white paper explains why we need a values-based framework for the phone network transition and why the Five Fundamentals can continue promoting a network you can count on.


Today Public Knowledge released a white paper explaining why it's so important that we follow certain basic values as our phone network transitions to Internet Protocols (IP). After all, our phone network didn't become the envy of world by accident; it was the result of deliberate policy choices that prioritized service to all Americans, competition and interconnection, consumer protection, network reliability, and public safety (what PK calls the Five Fundamentals).

As we dive into the transition to IP, it's tempting to jump right into a debate about what the specific rules should look like. But without knowing what values are guiding your choices, it's impossible to make principled decisions about which path to choose. 

That's why we need a framework, a set of basic values that have guided our national communications policies for the past century. All of the benefits everyday users are so accustomed to they don't even notice anymore (reliable 911 access, choosing your own phone, being able to call anyone on any network, to name just a few) happened because our policies made them happen.

The framework Public Knowledge has distilled from our century-long commitment to a successful communications networks includes Five Fundamentals:

  • Service to all Americans
  • Competition and interconnection
  • Consumer protection
  • Network reliability
  • Public safety

Beyond helping us set affirmative rules going forward, the Five Fundamentals can guide how we respond to transition-related problems that are happening right now. 

For example, new IP-based systems have allowed new practices by carriers that lead to more rural customers not being able to reliably receive or make calls. Even now, carriers respond to rural customers with these problems that they'll just have to settle for sub-par service. This doesn't mean that carriers are acting maliciously, but it shows how we can't rely on "the market" to automatically defend the basic values that have made our network great. Whether responding to existing problems or proactively protecting consumers, we need to move forward under a framework that puts consumers first.

If we want the transition to IP to be a step forward, not a step backward, we need to understand what values made the existing phone network such a great success, and keep putting those values first in the next generation of our communications network. This paper goes through the history or our network and explains how we have been relying on the Five Fundamentals for decades to promote innovation and protect consumers. If we keep following the Five Fundamentals in the future, the transition to IP can continue our long tradition of encouraging competitive new services while putting everyday Americans first.

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