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Group challenges regs requiring phone companies to maintain copper networks

Matt Hamblen | Oct. 9, 2013
As the battle between cable providers and traditional telephone companies continues before federal regulators, a report issued Tuesday challenged old regulations that require companies such as AT&T to maintain copper-based legacy networks.

The IIA said the Kovacs report was not funded by any single member of its broad-based group. The group of 175 members includes companies in the telecom manufacturing area such as Alcatel-Lucent, but AT&T is the only large incumbent carrier. Other members include the Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, the Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Touched by an Angel Ministries.

Matt Wood, policy director of the public interest group Free Press, said the report and the IIA's position are headed toward urging government support of a wholesale deregulation of all communications providers. "There's room to talk about modernization in the industry, but not a race to the bottom where we deregulate everybody," he said in an interview.

Traditional carriers "should not be required to offer copper, but they should offer universal connectivity and interconnections with other carriers."

Wood said the FCC and state regulators should maintain a commitment to service all people and businesses under universal service principles that don't discriminate on where a person or business is located -- whether it is on a remote Indian-American territory or a West Virginia mountainside. Free Press also supports interconnection principles, which means that if a customer has Verizon Wireless service, Verizon must connect with other services such as AT&T.

"Principles like universal service, nondiscrimination and interconnection are not outdated legacies," Wood said. "They are the foundations for competition in a strong economy and free expression in a democracy. We can talk about modernizing and even eliminating special regulations, but can't toss out any of these bedrock principles or the FCC's authority to enforce them."

Boucher said the IIA does adhere to the principles that Free Press espoused. "Nobody is proposing a flash cut [to free up carriers], and it would happen over time," he said.

"A number of consumer values must be addressed and protected and no one left behind. Universal service must be preserved. Everyone should receive a service at least as good as [their] service today. Everyone will have continued access to 911 and access for the disabled would have to be preserved for the vision and hearing impaired. And there needs to be a place to make complaints. The FCC needs to conduct trials," Boucher said.


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