The End of Ubiquity

David Byrd : Byrd's Eye View
David Byrd
Chief Marketing Officer for ANPI

The End of Ubiquity

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) services nearly 97% of Americans. This means that almost every home, business and dwelling in the US has the opportunity to purchase a landline connection. If the PSTN is to be replaced by IP communications and mobile networks, then the level of penetration and broadband access must increase dramatically. Whereas, there is concern in Congress about the cost of VoIP and mobile services, it is interesting to note that minorities and low income families lead the way in abandoning landline access and using wireless exclusively. Granted services provided to this community of consumers is generally voice over narrowband versus broadband, it is an interesting trend. Additionally, narrowband access is insufficient to support business requirements for communications and data services. Previously, I have lamented the push to use taxes to expand broadband into rural non-served areas prior to promoting the expansion into underserved areas. The rationale for this position is somewhat related to the discussion for retiring the PSTN. Currently, the US ranks seventh out of eight for among the G8 industrialized countries for broadband deployment. This is measured using access, speed and price (ASP) as the criteria. If the PSTN is to be retired, then improving  ASP nationwide must be a concern. Most of the US, including urban areas, is underserved when compared to our natural competitors and many developing nations.

Mobile services are available to 80% of Americans and while it may seem the Internet is everywhere, it too is not available to all. Nearly 10% of Americans have no access to broadband services and another 20% have access that is too low/slow to support advanced Internet services such as video or streaming data such as required for Pandora. There are no valid proposals by either the FCC or the major ILECs to address this situation. Reforming the Universal Service Fund (USF), InterCarrier Compensation (ICC) or the Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) funding will have to be completed with a view towards replacing the PSTN with another technology or the effort will fail. IP Communications and Broadvox depend upon the PSTN to terminate a majority of calls today.

The FCC views the 1934 Communications act as establishing the priority of delivering communications services to all Americans. As the definition of those services has changed over the years, the challenge for the FCC is to use its regulatory powers to complement the efforts of private enterprise to advance those services to meet current demands.

So, what are the benefits? Let’s discuss those on Friday.

 

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