FCC Chairman Calls for Major Overhaul of Nation’s Telephone System Technology

Bays of equipment stand in the 4G area at an AT&T mobile telephone switching office on October 25, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The center handles wireless AT&T traffic from the western part of North Carolina. 
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Laura Ryan
Nov. 20, 2013, 7:22 a.m.

Video­phones may soon be­come a real­ity for Amer­ic­ans, The New York Times re­ports.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion an­nounced on Tues­day that the agency will be­gin a “di­verse set of ex­per­i­ments” to move the na­tion’s tele­phone sys­tem from one that uses ana­log tech­no­logy to a new one that is In­ter­net-based.

The be­ne­fits of tech­no­logy up­grades in­clude cost sav­ings, the abil­ity to trans­fer more data at once, and in­creased op­por­tun­it­ies for ex­pan­sion.

FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er wrote in a blog post Tues­day that he ex­pects the com­mis­sion to vote on an or­der to be­gin plan­ning the trans­ition in Janu­ary.

“This is what I have called the Fourth Net­work Re­volu­tion, and it is a good thing,” Wheel­er wrote in the blog post. “His­tory has shown that new net­works cata­lyze in­nov­a­tion, in­vest­ment, ideas, and in­genu­ity. Their spillover ef­fects can trans­form so­ci­ety — think of the cre­ation of in­dus­tri­al or­gan­iz­a­tions and the stand­ard­ized time zones that fol­lowed in the wake of the rail­road and tele­graph.”

Al­though wire­less car­ri­ers and con­sumer groups agree that the cen­tury-old tech­no­logy needs up­dat­ing, con­sumer ad­voc­ates also ex­pressed con­cern. Har­old Feld, a seni­or vice pres­id­ent at Pub­lic Know­ledge, warned that the FCC does not wield the same au­thor­ity over the In­ter­net as it does over the tele­phone sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to The New York Times re­port. He also said that car­ri­ers us­ing IP might not be sub­ject to the same rules that en­sure Amer­ic­ans have uni­ver­sal ac­cess to tele­phone ser­vice.


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