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Video Recording Now Available of FCC Dec 6th Workshop on PSTN Transition

If you missed attending or listening to the live stream of the US Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) workshop on the transition of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to new technologies that was held last week on December 6th, the FCC has very nicely made a video recording available from their website for viewing:


Given that the workshop was 4 hours long, you may or may not want to watch the entire session. The workshop was divided into four hour-long panels that consisted of brief presentations by the various panelists followed by questions to each panel from the moderator and attendees. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also appeared briefly to provide a few comments.

The order of the workshop panels is as follows (and differs from the planned agenda only in that FCC Chairman Genachowski’s comments came between the first two panels):

  • The Impact of Broadband Communications on Public Safety and Network Reliability
  • Remarks by Julius Genachowski, Chairman, FCC
  • Disability Access in Substitute Services
  • Technical Capacity, Capabilities, and Challenges Facing Future Rural Networks
  • Identifying, Evaluating, and Transitioning Key PSTN Edge Functionalities (e.g., alarm monitoring, medical devices, and consumer equipment)

In his comments, FCC Chairman Genachowski discussed how the world is changing and moving to an IP network. He highlighted that 19% of the nation’s telephone connections are already interconnected VoIP and 30% of Americans have cut the cord and moved to wireless. He spoke of the role of IP networks in unleashing innovation, contributing to job creation, education, etc. and indicated he and the commission are seeking answers to questions such as these:

  • how do we minimize consumer disruption in the move?
  • how do we ensure public safety access?
  • how do preserve and promote disability access?
  • how do we ensure ubiquitous access?
  • how do we ensure access to high quality service?
  • how do we best foster innovation?

He emphasized that the current PSTN is reliable and accessible and we don’t want to lose benefits of old system. He indicated that he wants to enable the private sector to take the best benefits of PSTN and bring those into the future while taking advantage of new technologies.

The panelists in each section all saw the transition as inevitable, indicated it was already well underway and raised legitimate concerns to be considered with regard to their topic area. For instance, the sheer number of installed devices connected to the PSTN will take quite some time to change over to devices that can work with IP networks. An example was given that a standard for alarm systems over IP was only standardized within the TIA in 2007 and a similar standard for smoke alarms over IP was only standardized in 2010. It will take quite some time for devices with those standards to propagate out into commercial availability and transition options may need to be evaluated. Similarly, while the use of traditional TTY devices continues to decline, there is still a huge installed base. These TTY devices are designed to work over the PSTN and the traditional protocol used does not work well over IP. These devices will need to either be replaced or have a transition device such as a terminal adapter installed to work over IP networks.

All in all it was quite an interesting session and hopefully did provide the FCC with the type of feedback they were seeking. The second FCC workshop on the PSTN transition takes place tomorrow, December 14, 2011.

By Dan York, Author and Speaker on Internet technologies - and on staff of Internet Society

Dan is the Director, Online Content, for the Internet Society but opinions posted on CircleID are his own. View more of Dan’s writing and audio here.

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