FCC Changes Approval Process for TDM to IP Network Transitions


At its July 15, 2016 Open Meeting, the FCC revised its review process for carriers wishing to discontinue TDM[1] networks as carriers move to modern Internet Protocol (IP) technology and switch from copper wires to fiber optic cables and wireless transmissions.  Carriers making these transitions have long argued the FCC should eliminate legacy regulations for traditional voice services that can serve as a disincentive for the rapid deployment of broadband, IP-based networks.

The new FCC process will allow any carrier to discontinue legacy TDM-based voice services on 30-days’ notice so long as the carrier can satisfy a three-prong test:  The new IP-based service must:

  1. provide “substantially similar” network quality and performance to TDM-based voice services;
  2. preserve access to 911 calling, cybersecurity and access for people with disabilities; and
  3. support interoperability with a list of legacy services still used by many consumers and small businesses (e.g., home security systems, medical monitoring devices, credit card readers and fax machines) until 2025.

Alternatively, carriers can use the traditional Section 214 discontinuance process set forth in Part 63 of the FCC’s rules.[2]

Also, the FCC granted a petition for declaratory ruling filed by the United States Telecom Association, a trade association, which declares traditional voice services providers to be non-dominant for the provision of interstate switched access services. 

More details will be known when the FCC’s order itself is released.  However, there remains a number of unresolved “transition” issues, including requirements for backup power for IP-based services in connection with commercial power failures; competitor access to retired copper cables from the incumbent carriers’ networks; and other conversion issues related to wholesale customers.  Many of those issues will likely be settled on case-by-case basis.

If you would like additional Information about this proceeding or other matters relating to the transition to all IP-based networks, please contact Attorney Robert H. Jackson at (703) 714-1316 or rhj@commlawgroup.com.


[1] Time Division Multiplexing – a longstanding technical standard for transmitting multiple communications over a single physical path.

[2] Traditionally, a carrier must file for, and receive, FCC authority to discontinue service when its proposal would result in a “loss or impairment of a service offering to a community or part of a community.”  Western Union Telegraph Company Petition for Order to Require the Bell System to Continue to Provide Group/Supergroup Facilities, Memorandum Opinion & Order, 74 FCC.2d 293, at ¶6 (1979).  The FCC’s focus is on the impact of eliminating a service on the user public (end user customers), although the Commission also considers the effect on another carrier when such discontinuance would negatively affect the second carrier’s end user customers.

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