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AT&T Executive Asks Congress to Support the End of POTS

Posted By Bob Ogle, Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An AT&T executive appeared before a Congressional subcommittee last month and asked the House to help clear a path to discontinue support nationwide for its POTS network in favor of a transition to a more advanced broadband infrastructure.

ESA Government Relations Director John Chwat was in the gallery on Wednesday, Oct. 23, for testimony before the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which is under the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

James Cicconi, senior vice president for External and Legislative Affairs at AT&T, asked the subcommittee to help push the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to plan for the gradual transition away from copper networks. AT&T has proposed creation of a 4G network that would cover 300 million people by the end of 2014, and a broadband network that would provide high-speed IP Internet access to 99 percent of its service area by the end of 2015.

He told the subcommittee that consumers are abandoning POTS lines at a rapid pace, speaking "loudly and clearly” about their desire for wireless and IP-based communications.

Cicconi said the company currently has about 13.9 million POTS lines nationwide, while Verizon has about 7.2 million. He cited Florida and Michigan as examples of states where POTS has drastically declined, with only about 15 percent of homes in each state connected to a POTS network.

Between 2008 and 2012, he said, AT&T invested nearly $98 billion in its wireless and wired IP broadband networks, with an additional $21 billion by the end of this year. He said the company expects to spend billions more during a transition to a nationwide broadband solution.

"The economics of maintaining the POTS network while simultaneously deploying broadband everywhere in those states just won’t work,” Cicconi said. "There simply aren’t enough investment dollars to do both, even for a company as large as ours.”

Late last year, AT&T filed a petition with the FCC proposing a transition to an all-IP network by 2020. Cicconi asked the subcommittee to urge the FCC to act now on AT&T’s request, starting with real-world beta testing in selected geographic areas.

He said the trials would offer "clear benefits,” and added that AT&T is not looking for a regulation-free system. The company is simply asking the FCC to allow it to react to an evolving marketplace that wants faster communications.

"The FCC has no more important mission in the coming years, and must start working with the industry to ensure an orderly transition of technologies,” Cicconi said. "These changes (abandoning POTS) are already underway. Consumers are driving them with the choices they make every day. The pace is accelerating. A failure by the FCC to plan risks confusion, disruptions, a squandering of resources, and even a new sort of digital divide.”

Click here to read Cicconi’s entire statement.

Tags:  Congress  federal legislation 

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