Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 3: Protecting All Consumers
Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 3: Protecting All Consumers
Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 3: Protecting All Consumers

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    Continuing our explanation of Public
    Knowledge’s Five Fundamentals
    to guide the phone network upgrade to an
    IP-based system, this week we’ll elaborate on the third principle: protecting
    all consumers.

    The need for consumer protection builds upon PK’s previous
    two principles for the PSTN transition. The first principle states that
    everyone has the right to be a consumer of the phone network and that phone
    carriers have a duty to bring service
    to all Americans
    . The second principle promotes competition
    and interconnection between carriers
    , meaning that anyone should be able to
    place a call to another person, regardless of which phone company they use.
    Interconnection and other competition policies lead to a healthy,
    consumer-friendly market for phone service.

    Yet competition between carriers does not always guarantee all
    aspects of consumer protection. PK’s third principle ensures that all consumers
    are protected from potential harm dealt to them by their phone service
    providers, by enforcing privacy principles, truth-in-billing, and safety from
    predatory practices.

    It is important that the consumer protections ensured in current
    communications law are updated to reflect the IP-based infrastructure of the
    future. Today, the law explicitly protects consumers’ confidential information,
    and the FCC has relied on its authority over the traditional phone network to extend
    this protection to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services. But the FCC
    has jurisdiction over other safeguards like “slamming rules” and “cramming
    rules” that they have yet to apply to VoIP providers.

    “Slamming rules” prevent telephone carriers from switching
    their subscribers’ service without permission, and “cramming rules” prevent
    carriers from adding charges to a customer’s phone bill without their
    permission. Both of these protections apply to traditional telephone users, but
    not to users of IP-based phone services. As managed VoIP replaces the old telephone
    network infrastructure, the FCC needs to consistently treat the two technologies
    as equally deserving of consumer protection. There can be no picking and
    choosing when it comes to consumer privacy and truth-in-billing.

    The telephone network is undergoing a necessary and
    inevitable upgrade to an IP-based system. As part of this transition, The FCC
    must ensure that consumers continue to be protected from predatory practices,
    regardless of which technology their phone company uses. The fundamental
    principle of consumer protection, along with the other four principles of
    service to all Americans, interconnection and competition, network reliability,
    and public safety will guide the transition of our phone system into a future
    that serves the technological needs of the people better than ever before.

    here to sign the petition supporting a universally affordable, reliable, and
    available phone system regardless of the underlying technology.