The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken action to relieve local phone companies of obligations under two legacy requirements from the age of the “plain old telephone service” (POTS).
A Memorandum Opinion and Order issued in early August relieves local exchange carriers (LECs) from outdated regulations based on the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that were intended to foster competition for service in local markets. Among other issues, the Order frees LECs from having to provide competitors with access to “analog voice-grade copper loops” and other legacy services at regulated rates.
While relevant when first introduced more than 20 years ago, FCC legacy requirements applicable to POTS have essentially been made obsolete by advances in communications technologies, such as cable, mobile and fixed wireless. Further, according to the FCC, these requirements have actually become anti-competitive, requiring incumbent LECs to prolong dependence on outdated technologies and hampering their efforts to adopt more innovative communications solutions.
The FCC’s Order provides a three-year transition period, except in Puerto Rico, where the transition period is extended to five years to account for the extensive damage to the telecommunications infrastructure that resulted from Hurricane Maria in 2017.