10 February 2013

5 Principals for Modern Communications Technology

Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge, telco policy wonk extraordinaire, and friend with whom I do medieval recreation with, has a must read essay on what a modern IP based telephone system should be like.

Basically, and unsurprisingly, it comes down to the same 5 principals that current switch based phone system has:
  • Universal service for all Americans. (Lifeline service for the poor)
  • Guaranteed interconnection, so that a Verizon user can make a call to a Comcast user.
  • Meaningful consumer protections. (i.e. "truth in billing", which is lacking in cell phone service right now)
  • Reliability (4 "9"s of reliability, something that is lacking in cell phone service right now, as well as various IP telephony services like AT&T's UVerse)
  • Emergency calls that work. (911 standards)
As is clear to anyone who spent even a few years under Ma Bell, these are not new concepts.  Our phone system has run under this for the past 80 years, since the New Deal.

Unfortunately, with the urging of what I call the "free market mousketeers", these principals have been slowly been rolled back, and this is not a good thing, as the people and first responders who were left without communications following super-storm Sandy can attest to.

As Mr. Feld notes, the real solutions to many of these problems is to separate the service (voice telephone) from the underlying technology (PSTN vs. IP, or whatever might succeed IP) from a regulatory perspective.

Watch the video.  It is both clear, and does a good job of making what is ordinarily a very dry subject accessible.


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