Public Knowledge Responds to FCC Rollback of Technology Transition Rules

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Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at “Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment.” It proposes reforms to pole attachments, and begins examining preemption of local and state barriers to broadband deployment. Bundled among these smaller issues, however, is an effort to potentially reverse the FCC’s Technology Transitions Order adopted in 2015, which ensure consumers and competition are protected as dominant carriers transition their networks from legacy packet-switched to modern Internet Protocol networks.

The following may be attributed to John Gasparini, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:

“It is disappointing to see the Commission open yet another front in what appears to be a broad war on the agency’s consumer protection work. As the devastation of Hurricane Sandy showed us, protection of consumers, small businesses, and other users who rely on provider networks is critically important when technology changes take place. Unfortunately, the Chairman’s proposal suggests rolling back even these simple protections preserving the reliability of the communications networks.

“The technology transitions rules the Commission proposes to eliminate do not inhibit competition or broadband deployment, but merely require that providers respect competitors and consumers as they transition their networks. Fax machines, credit card readers, fire alarms, and security systems, among countless other devices critical to consumers and businesses, will be impacted by these transitions. Consumers and small businesses have relied on the phone network for decades -- the rules that the Commission weakens today simply provide them with adequate notice and time to plan before entire communities’ communications networks are transitioned.

“The tech transition presents a great opportunity to bring better service to millions of Americans. We remain hopeful that the FCC will ensure that this process brings an upgrade for everyone, not an upgrade for a few and a downgrade for many. Unfortunately, Chairman Pai has made it abundantly clear that his priorities lie with dominant, incumbent carriers.

“Efforts like the one started today undermine fundamental common-sense consumer protections. Consumers, small businesses, the most vulnerable Americans, and anyone else who relies on stable phone networks may be left footing the bill for service that doesn’t meet their needs, if the Commission continues down this path.”

You may view our latest blog post, “Next on Chairman Pai’s Chopping Block: Tech Transitions,” for more information.

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