The Federal Communications Commission wants to do a little more hand holding. Yesterday it released a notice of proposed rulemaking that requires that communications companies give notice to their subscribers when changes are made to their networks. In particular are changes to their networks that involve replacing copper with the fiber optics networks upon which digital information rides. The Commission is also concerned that the transition to internet protocol-based services may leave consumers in the dark about the performance of communications services during power outages. Unlike old school, copper-based, analog networks, the new optical networks are not capable of driving backup power to a customers equipment.
With a phone connected to an old analog network, all the lights could go out in your house, but the phone will keep working allowing you to call the power company to complain about having to make a call while holding a candle. Fiber optics, on the other hand, don’t have that capability. If you are a Vonnage customer or get your wireline phone service from a cable operator, you may have to purchase an uninterruptible power supply device. This device is a rechargeable battery system that senses when there is not enough power for your phone.
According to the website, Voip.com, there are three types of UPS equipment: the Standby UPS; the Line Interactive UPS; and the Online UPS. The Standby version is the most efficient, licking in when the alternating current power supply to your residence goes out. The Line Interactive version, while slightly less efficient than the Standby version, provides the benefit of smoothing out power surges. The Online version is the least efficient but reduces the time between power failure and switch over to direct current.
These back up power supplies can provide power from fifteen minutes to several hours and researching their availability on the internet was rather straightforward.
I understand the need to maintain a communications network that facilitates commerce and contributes to public safety, but wouldn’t it be less intrusive if the Commission acted as a clearinghouse for information on backup supplies and allow the supply component of the market to address an obvious consumer need for backup energy supply?