Posted by: Hank Hultquist on April 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao-Tzu, The Way of Lao Tzu
Over the last few years, discussion of the FCC’s role in IP interconnection has generated lots of heat, a little light, and virtually no progress. On April 18th, the FCC took matters into its own hands and began the transition to all-IP interconnection with not one, but two steps. First, the FCC began a process to authorize IP-based providers to obtain telephone numbers directly from the numbering administrator. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the FCC sought comment on database and routing issues that must be resolved in order to enable the transition to all-IP interconnection.
It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of these database and routing issues. Numbering databases may seem like the driest of telecom issues, but they are the key to enabling this transition. The existing databases, principally the Local Exchange Routing Guide (LERG) and Number Portability Administrative Center (NPAC), lie at the heart of the existing system of TDM interconnection for local and long distance telephone calls. Virtually every telephone call between customers of different service providers is interconnected on the basis of information from these databases. In order to move to IP interconnection, there must be a database that associates IP routing information with telephone numbers.
Once service providers begin to populate IP routing information into the NPAC or some similar database, the momentum for all-IP interconnection will gather into an irresistible wave of innovation and progress. Unlike TDM interconnection, which enables only a homogenized service with a limited and strictly defined set of features, IP interconnection will open the door to higher quality (like HD audio), new capabilities (like video), and a host of new features that will enable consumers to control which modes of communications they will engage in at particular times with particular parties.
Posted by: Bob Quinn on March 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm
FCC Commissioner Pai confirmed last week during his terrific speech at the Hudson Institute that Chairman Genachowski has circulated a draft order which would initiate a geographically limited trial gradually permitting VoIP providers to get direct access to telephone numbers without having to go through a local exchange carrier. This is a great development on a number of fronts.
First, we have supported Vonage’s Petition in this area versus some vehement opposition from Level 3 and others who want to insist on maintaining the phony privileges of Title II regulation in order to stand as a gatekeeper and toll collector to the VoIP industry. (I am sure the rest of the OTT industry has been heartened by Level 3’s concerns that Vonage might gain a competitive advantage over other VoIP competitors if its waiver was granted).
More importantly though, I think the Chairman’s action at trying to move forward on this issue bodes well for the IP Transition generally. Virtually every single VoIP call today must touch the PSTN under the current call routing structure in place in the industry. That kind of network inefficiency has to be removed if we are to achieve the all-IP nirvana that lies at the end of this massive technology shift.
Posted by: Bob Quinn on February 14, 2013 at 5:30 am
For anyone who thought that we didn’t need a comprehensive, focused inquiry on how to clear the path for communications to move from a TDM-based circuit switched world to an all-IP, broadband future, you must have noticed a ripple in the force last week (I won’t name names, but if you attended NARUC you heard from a few of them. That ripple, of course, was caused by the failure of the FCC to meet the statutory one-year deadline to decide a US Telecom petition that seeks forbearance from, among other things, rules which apply to carriers engaged in furnishing “radio-telegraph, wire-telegraph, or ocean-cable service,” and requires such carriers to maintain “separate files for each damage claim of a traffic nature.”
That’s right. One year was not enough time to determine whether we could finish making the move from the telegraph-era to the telephone-era. Apparently, this is tricky stuff.
But fear not, under the statute, the Commission is only allowed to extend the due date on this request for three more months, and I am confident that, given that extra time, the Commission will see the light and grant this relief. I mean, the telegraph part of US Telecom’s request was un-opposed. And Commission Staff has been recommending the revocation of that rule for 10 years, so the result should not be in doubt, right?? (I’ll keep knocking on wood just to be safe). But what the FCC ultimately does with telegraph rules is not the reason I am writing. It is the fact that regulations have a tendency to persist long after they outlived any usefulness and it takes real focus and effort to ultimately remove them from the books even when everyone agrees that it is the common sense thing to do.