Does the FCC Have its Sights Set too Short on IP Transition

The IP transition has been a primary focus for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as telecommunications providers seeking the benefits of moving all subscribers to new platforms. A recent announcement by AT&T to advance this initiative should have been met with fanfare, but was instead met with an announcement of investigation by the FCC.

IP communications are delivering significant benefits to organizations throughout the world, as it allows businesses to streamline communication costs and activities across one network. In doing so, the advanced capabilities that were once out of reach are standard use and clean integration is enabled across multiple platforms.

AT&T made an announcement that could have easily advanced the IP transition in the FCC timetable according to the National Broadband Plan. The telecommunications giant, on November 25, 2013, proposed that its special access contract length of terms synch up with the FCC’s goals for the completion of the IP transition.

At first glance, it seems the FCC should want to eat this up, allowing for targeted completion. Instead, the FCC announced a five-month investigative delay. Is this agency missing the bigger picture?

Right now, companies like Cbeyond, Level 3 and Sprint are pleading with the FCC to maintain the receipt of 1990s resale subsidies. Such requests ignore the advancements in the market where business users demand access to broadband, smartphones, tablets, video conferencing and other advanced communication technologies.

According to Scott Cleland in a Heartland post, this special access to technologies that are going away is unnecessary. He believes the FCC should be supporting its own stance that to extend gigabit speeds to consumers and schools. By allowing for continued subsidies to ensure these companies can effectively compete, the FCC would be agreeing that access to 1996 technology is still needed, and will be in 2020.

The cost savings alone from the IP transition is enough to drive the FCC’s push to remove itself from the PSTN. By 2020, it’s expected that nearly all Americans will have abandoned this network in favor of IP communications. The question posed in Cleland’s article is whether or not the FCC is missing the big picture – investigating AT&T’s proposal to lineup dates instead of reviewing requests for continued subsidies in a technological world where they don’t make sense.

By 2020, companies should be able to focus their efforts on the provision of IP communications networks without help from the government as technological advancements offer equal opportunity. For providers who claim they still need subsidies, perhaps the FCC should be investigating why they haven’t been able to keep pace with the rest of the market.

In that sense, the FCC may have its reasons for investigating AT&T’s proposal, but they aren’t readily apparent. From this perspective, it seems they really have missed the big picture.