Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 4: Network Reliability
Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 4: Network Reliability
Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 4: Network Reliability

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    Each week we’ve focused on one of Public Knowledge’s five
    for the PSTN transition to an all-IP (Internet Protocol) phone
    network. We believe that the principles of service
    to all Americans
    , interconnection
    and competition
    between carriers, consumer
    , network reliability, and public safety are needed to guide the
    technological upgrade while keeping the necessities we’ve all come to expect
    from the phone network. 

    Today, let’s talk about one of the most basic principles of
    the phone upgrade: the network still has to function reliably.

    The phone system’s transition away from older TDM-based
    technology and toward the newer IP-based service is a welcome change. The network’s
    traditional technology is rapidly becoming obsolete and voice over IP (VoIP) has
    the potential to offer more efficient, higher quality service. That being said,
    phone companies absolutely cannot sacrifice network reliability for upgraded
    technology.  From natural disasters to
    basic network mechanisms like distributing phone numbers, the phone network
    must continue to function with the complete reliability we expect today.

    Only a few months ago, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east
    coast, leaving massive power outages in its wake. As the power grid shut down,
    many people who lost access to the internet, VoIP, and video services were
    forced to use neighborhood payphones to call friends and family in the
    aftermath of the storm. When the traditional phone network no longer exists, we
    risk losing the safety net we all rely upon.

    How reliable the new network will be depends on the policy
    decisions we make now. The FCC has authority to ensure the reliability of the
    phone network and will need to guarantee an equal or better level of robustness
    during and after the transition to an all-IP system.

    Just as the upgraded phone network must work reliably in a
    natural disaster, we should also be assured that it works day to day. The FCC
    exercises its authority over certain fundamental mechanisms of the phone
    system, such as distributing phone numbers, which must still function
    throughout and after the transition. But, the FCC currently bases its authority
    to administer things like phone numbers on its authority over the traditional phone
    network, raising the question of what will happen once that infrastructure has
    been cleared away for newer technology. How will phone numbers work in a world
    without the traditional PSTN? Which phone service providers will be able to obtain
    and distribute phone numbers, and from where will they get them? These are
    critical questions that the FCC must answer as we move away from the
    familiarity of the PSTN’s older technology.

    It is the FCC’s responsibility to ensure that consumers can
    rely on the phone network every day, rain or shine. There must be a guaranteed
    minimum level of robustness during and after the transition to an all IP phone

    The technology behind our digital infrastructure is evolving
    but the original goal of the phone network remains the same: it needs to work.

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