The Federal Communications Commission approved an order yesterday that provides broadband operators with requirements for how they should approach the transition from analog-based networks to 21st century internet protocol networks. The FCC’s focus was, as expected, on the impact the transition would have on consumers. Broadband providers are to provide consumers with three months notice of any plans to replace copper with fiber. Broadband providers are to give interconnecting carriers six months notice of a transition from plain old copper to fiber.
FCC member Ajit Pai raised the argument in a dissent to the order that the FCC’s notice requirement would have a negative impact on the deployment of fiber facilities and investment of capital. He says:
“First, by dragging out the copper retirement process, the FCC is adopting regulations that ‘deter rather than promote fiber deployment.’” Mr. Pai questions the logic of requiring capital be invested in maintaining old legacy networks when the deployment of fiber could remedy issues presented by an aging copper network.
FCC member Michael O’Rielly warned edge providers in his dissent that they would be negatively impacted by the requirement that broadband providers seek permission first from the FCC before discontinuing a legacy service. ”Every communications and edge provider better think long and hard before introducing new services because you may be locked in to providing them for a very long time.”
The irony is that by forcing broadband providers to maintain legacy networks to end users, the FCC runs the risk of creating the degradation of service it hoped to avoid when it implemented its net neutrality rules. Take for example the FCC’s findings in its 2010 Open Internet Order. In the order the FCC describes the “virtuous cycle of innovation” that is spawned by the openness of the Internet.
“This openness promotes competition. It also enables a self-reinforcing cycle of investment and innovation in which new uses of the network lead to increased adoption of broadband, which drives investment and improvement in the network itself, which in turn lead to further innovative uses of the network and further investment in content, application, services, and devices. A core goal of this Order is to foster and accelerate this cycle of investment and innovation.”
The FCC went on to point out in the 2010 Order that a lack of transparency in terms of network management put edge providers at risk especially where a broadband provider’s activity led to blocking or degrading of content. The irony is that while the FCC appears focused like a laser beam on promoting competition in the provision of broadband services by making legacy networks available for use by interconnecting and competitive carriers, it has taken its eye off of the real competition on the internet, namely between edge providers that aggregate, display, and distribute data. These edge providers want their exchange of data to traverse high-speed networks from their location to the end-users. While their business models may not be directly impacted in the very short run by the FCC’s IP Transition Order, in the immediate run they may find users unwilling or unable to subscribe to their services because deployment by broadband providers of last-mile high-speed facilities are being delayed by the FCC’s latest notice requirements.
1.Federal Communications Commission. Open Internet Order. 2010. https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-10-201A1_Rcd.pdf