Last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler posted a blog discussing his proposed changes to the copper retirement rules in order to facilitate the IP-Transition.  The Chairman announced that he would be circulating his proposals via two items (Report and Order and Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) to the other Commissioners.  The proposed rules will likely be voted on at the Open Commission Meeting on August 6, 2015 (the agenda for this meeting has not yet been released).

According to a fact sheet released on the Chairman’s proposals, the rules aim to make clarifications about the IP-Transition while also providing protections for consumers.

Report and Order: The first item aims to protect emergency calling while promoting consumer choice, by proposing rules that:

  • Require the providers of “modern substitutes ” for traditional copper-based landlines to ensure that a technical solution for 8 hours of standby backup power is available for consumers to purchase (at their choice), either directly or from a third-party retailer, at the point of sale;
  • Require, within three years, that providers offer an option for 24 hours of standby backup power; and
  • Require providers to inform current and new customers about the service limitations during electric outages and the steps the provider takes to address those risks through backup power.

Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: The second item aims to inform and protect consumers as networks change. Protect consumers as copper networks are replaced by next generation networks by:

  • Requiring that consumers be notified of plans to retire copper networks (approximately six months of notice for non-residential customers and three months of notice for residential customers);
  • Defining “retirement” in a way that prevents retirement of networks by neglect;
  • Requiring notice to interconnecting carriers for retirement of all parts of the copper network that are critical to providing their customers with service; and
  • Retaining carrier flexibility to retire the networks without prior Commission approval, as long as the service is not discontinued, reduced, or impaired.

Preserve competitive choices by:

  • Requiring that replacement services be offered to competitive providers at rates, terms, and conditions reasonably comparable to the legacy services; and
  • Clarifying that a carrier that has only carrier customers that is planning to discontinue service must follow the statutory process for discontinuance if the action would negatively impact retail users served by carrier customers.

Evaluate whether new service will meet consumer needs by:

  • Clarifying, and seeking comment on the standards to be used for evaluating and comparing replacement and legacy services; and
  • Codifying Section 214 of the Act (which requires that carriers receive FCC approval before they discontinue, reduce or impair a service) based on the comments received.

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