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Thursday, February 18, 2016

New FCC rules about transition to New Phone Network

Over the past couple of years the FCC has been working with consumer groups, telephone companies and others to think about how to make the transition to modern networks as seamless as possible.  Here are few new rules that will help make that happen.

Backup power rules protect new phone network customers

In the transition from old copper phone lines to modern alternatives like wireless and wired Voice over IP (VoIP) products, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has addressed one concern about the new fixed VoIP phone networks: that you can't make a phone call when the power is out if you don’t have backup power.

This past summer, the FCC passed new rules to require phone service providers to provide consumers with information about the need for battery backup in case of power outages. While most “wireless home phones” generally come with batteries (like your cell phone), not all wired Voice over IP solutions come with batteries. The FCC rules require that customers must be given the option to purchase standby backup power to last for eight hours, and, within the next three years, the option to purchase standby backup power capable of lasting for 24 hours.

Consumers will be offered backup battery power but they will not be required to purchase or pay for equipment they do not want. However, backup power is necessary to call 911 emergency services during a power outage.

Providers of wireless and wired VoIP home phones will be required to inform customers about service limitations during electric outages and the steps they can take to address those risks, including how to keep their service operational during a multi-day power outage.

As you make the switch to VoIP services, you should think about what products and services will best meet your needs in the case of a power outage.  For example, you might decide that you can use a mobile phone to meet your needs during a power outage, in which case battery backup for your VoIP service may not be necessary.  Alternatively, if you need your VoIP connection during an outage and you only have cordless phones, which require an external power source to work, you might need to consider a different battery backup solution that will power your VoIP connection as well as the physical phone.

More information on the FCC order for emergency battery backup to help IP-based phone customers communicate during power outages can be found here.

New rules help customers get ready for IP-Transition

Battery backup wasn’t the only topic that the FCC addressed when it comes to the new phone network, they also issued new rules that will require customer notification if the copper cable serving their home or business is replaced with fiber. Residential phone customers should have plenty of time to plan for replacement of copper cables and to ensure they have backup power as the FCC rules require that service providers must notify them directly at least three months in advance about plans to retire copper cable. (Non-residential retail customers must be notified least six months in advance.)

The FCC battery backup obligations placed on providers during the IP transition will be in effect for 10 years. After that, it’s expected that consumer expectations about phone service will be "aligned with ongoing technology transitions,” said the FCC in a press release.

The FCC order on changes involving discontinuance, impairment or reduction of copper landline services can be found here.