Today, Public Knowledge, joined by 28 other organizations, sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler calling on him to issue rules to protect the more than 85 million Americans and millions of small business still dependent on traditional landline service from losing access to vital services, and to preserve the stability of the telephone system and reliability of the 911 system for the more than 300 million Americans that depend on it every day.
The FCC previously recognized in two unanimous bipartisan votes in 2014 that what it calls the “Tech Transition” of our national communications network to the digital age must reflect the fundamental values that have governed our communications system for the last hundred years, including guaranteeing reliable, affordable service to all Americans and protecting access to public safety services such as 911. But the purely market-driven process driving the transition to date has resulted in many Americans experiencing degraded phone service and an alarming increase in 911 outages.
The following may be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:
“The most basic, fundamental function of the Federal Communications Commission is to make sure that our national communications infrastructure works. Last November, in the midst of the contentious network neutrality debate, the Commission voted unanimously to begin the process of setting rules for an orderly transition of the telephone system that will continue to provide service to all Americans and a reliable 911 system.
“We call on Chairman Wheeler to issue guidelines for the Tech Transition and give Americans the protections they need and deserve. Reports keep surfacing that customers in rural areas and poor urban communities that lack adequate broadband access are losing even basic phone service. The ongoing hurricane season means that millions of Americans may see their existing phone networks destroyed, without any clear requirement that their phone provider must restore equivalent service. ‘Sunny day’ 911 outages have moved from unthinkable to unexceptional.
“Chairman Wheeler must act quickly to ensure that the transition of the phone system is an upgrade for everyone — not an upgrade for some and a downgrade for the rest of us.”
A copy of the letter, which lists all 29 organizations, is available here.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.