Last week, FISPA had a skype video call with the FCC. The first part was with Lisa Gelb of the Wireline Competition Bureau. She gave us a perspective on the Decline of the PSTN. There has been a 34% decline in wireline as consumers swicth from the fixed network and migration to other services, like VoIP, video, SMS and broadband. Cell only use is on the rise. [In fact, that is what is keeping VZW and AT&T afloat: cell]
Telecom revenues have been flat overall, but wireline revenues are declining. Meanwhile, broadband is becoming critical, especially to the economy. However, as the per line cost of PSTN maintenance rises, rural telcos cannot sustain both the PSTN and broadband networks. [There are those that would argue at $10K per line, they certainly can.]
The FCC created a Tech Advisory Council tasked with both defining the issues of winding down the PSTN and the metrics for quality of broadband. [Good luck!] One issue is stranded assets: alarms, faxes, phones/modems/machines and elevator phones that just can't convert to IP. What do we do with these assets? It's a big question.
The other question hanging there is "What regulations make sense?" Some find it ironic that cellular bills have less taxes and fees than POTS. And VoIP has even less while being sold as a replacement service. This has created a pickle for 911 centers in some counties as the fees collected are not covering the costs of running the PSAP or the 911 center. Ironically, USF is still charged equally on all types of lines, due to the very nature of USF as the Golden Cow, well, sacred cow, but it is truly golden (at $4.5 billion annually). The USF Reform has only shifted the USF from POTS to broadband with basically the same folks collecting the money every year. [Incredibly, I concur DC.
Modernizing USF falls into the silo of the National Broadband Plan, Connect America Fund, and the rural jobs initiative. Just listen to FCC Chair Genachowski.