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August 03, 2011

Telecom2018 Notes

Skip this post if you're not deeply into telecommunications issues.

These are my notes from the Telecom2018 workshop held last week in Washington, DC. My recollection is much aided by live tweets with the hashtag #telecom2018, which is well worth reviewing for its comment thread but I am responsible for errors and omissions. Especial thanks to @ruraltelcomment, @haroldfeld, @aswath, and @bobfrankston for prolific tweeting.

 

Richard Wiley, Partner, Wiley Rein - The opportunities and challenges of industry transition

Talked mainly about the DTV transition for which he had much responsibility for as FCC chair

Date certain (even though it changed several times) was key element in success

Important to outline objectives of the transition. Enhanced voice? Going digital?

PSTN transition will require clear, easy, transparent, acceptable education and info for consumer

thinks all IP will reduce gov oversight, eliminate "demarcation lines" that segment industry

Blair Levin, Communications and Society Fellow at the Aspen Institute – Surprise Appearance

Process for planning the PSTN transition has similarities to developing the national broadband plan

Question is how to exit gracefully from an old technology

It is not unrealistic to coordinate the two plans

Predicted that industry would file a USF plan on Friday [nb. Six carriers did]

Tom Evslin, Partner, Evslin Consulting - Why a date certain transition by 2018?

End of the PSTN being determined by consumers who are deserting, not by government or industry fiat

Doesn't matter whether some experts think the PSTN is more reliable than mobile or VoIP, consumers aren't buying the argument

Economics fast becoming unsustainable; subsidies growing and absorbing money which ought to go for transition

The choice we have is to plan or not to plan for the end of the PSTN

Planning without a date is an academic exercise

The choice the government has is when to transition subsidies, end mandates, and what to do about pstn-centric regulations

2018 may not be aggressive enough

In response to a question: TAC did not specify 2018, only that FCC set a "date certain"

Hank Hultquist, VP Federal Regulatory, AT&T - Opportunities associated with a transition to advance networks

Turning PSTN off means reinventingt he regulation of the PSTN

AT&T has already petitioned FCC to set a date certain for ending PSTN

Cost of keeping the PSTN is growing quickly and crowding out needed investment in broadband

Panel: Deconstructing the PSTN: What Does It Mean To Turn It Off?

Moderator: Harold Feld, Legal Director, Public Knowledge
Colleen Boothby, Partner, Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby
Hank Hultquist, VP Federal Regulatory, AT&T
Thomas Jones, Partner, Willkie, Farr & Gallagher
Valerie Wimer, Vice President, John Saurulakis, Inc.

Wimer:

Rural telcos use same facilities for POTS and broadband

Title II regulations will be critical for rural carriers

Continued access charge subsidy needed (my wording)

If PSTN shutoff today, RLECs will default on RUS loans, networks would shutdown

Must be a solution to VoIP peering

Carriers cannot make economic decisions to cut off rural areas re: arbitrage. All consumers must reach everyone in IP

Jones:

What is the meaning of retiring the network?

What about the rights of way?

Migrating to diff protocols and transport technology does not fix market failures, like access to last mile for CLECs

Immediate shutdown of PSTN means higher prices, less choice, less competition

Boothby:

Carriers are making marketing statements when they declare the need for changes [in regulation]

technology evolves but that doesn't necessarily make the market structure, need for regulation change as well

Consumers need to be protected from the danger of monopoly in the IP as well as PSTN world

FCC should hire less lawyers and economists and more engineers

Hultquist:

Phone number is really now a name used for routing

There is a database dip involved in almost every call-completion

Points of agreement:

Networks need to be interconnected

Current telecom law not perfect but FCC has the authority it needs for transition without a change to the law

Panel: Embracing Innovation Across the Ecosystem

Moderator: Glenn Richards, Executive Director, VON Coalition & Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Rick Whitt, Telecom and Media Counsel, Google
Ron Del Sesto, Partner, Bingham McCutchen
Barlow Keener, Principal, Keener Law Group

Panel format is to assume that it is 2018 and the transition has happened. What does the world look like now?

Keener:

Jon Stewart is President

USF has grown from $1.7B to $4.2B for "high cost"; total USF now is $8

Lit infrastructure (copper, fiber, or other) is owned by government and available to service providers

Local municipalities will provide free access like roads and sidewalks, paid by taxes

Net neutrality no longer an issue

Whitt:

Colbert is President after moving to Fox

Fiber and LTE are dominant layer 1

Layer 3 is IP instead of PSTN; SIP dominant protocol

Asks how will we accomplish this? Natural evolution, "industrial policy," public-private partnerships?

Need to restructure USF for an IP world

State commissions will have a key role in USF for broadband

Worried about ISPs exempting their own services from usage caps and disadvantaging competitors

Del Sesto

Praises HD voice

Mainly concerned with social implications of online all the time, social media

Mark Uncapher, Director Regulatory and Government Affairs, TIA - Market trends and projections

Showed chart with less than 50% broadband penetration in US; didn't know what the denominator is. Might be wireline broadband accounts divided by total population?

Showed chart with considerably less line abandonment than carriers have been claiming and very slow decline in business lines

Showed chart predicting steep decline in access line abandonment starting 2011. Didn't have underlying assumptions available

[charts should be available shortly on a website tbd]

Don Troshynski, VP Solutions Architecture, Acme Packet - Service creation opportunities with SIP carrier networks

Explained the role of session border controllers

Carriers see the benefit of offering additional services like group chat

Inter-carrier connections are slow to move to all IP because carriers make money from them

Sees a future of engineered network interconnections rather than all interconnected through the Internet cloud

Link Hoewing, VP Internet and Technology Policy, Verizon - The All IP Network

70% of Verizon access lines are fiber

Mobile penetration and data usage going up, voice minutes going down

Impossible to think in an IP world that you can do it all. You need partners, need to collaborate

New world is very competitive, evidence is VZW opening up to 3 party apps and app stores and a product cycle driven by smartphone releases

Jason Oxman, SVP, Industry Affairs, CEA - Lessons learned from the HDTV transition

A date certain was key to the success of this transition – even though it changed

Standards were also essential [nb. But in a way which might not apply to the PSTN transition]

Panel: Alternative Deployment Models

Bob Frankston, Principal, Frankston Innovating - Community driven network infrastructure
Aswath Rao, President, Enthinnai - Social Sharing via CPE

Note: Since I relied on tweets from Frankston and Aswath for covering other speakers, coverage of their talks is thin.

Frankston:

The community should own its own infrastructure – but not provide services

You don't want anyone telling you what to do with your bits

Regulation IS a monopoly

The future is very different from the past; telcos are rooted in the past

Rao:

It is possible to provide all the features of Facebook or Google+ without forcing both parties to use the same social networking service

Enthinnai is an existence-proof of that

Carriers could prosper – and compete with the social networking services - by running instances of an Enthinnai-like service in their clouds

Those who want to can host their own instances

William Manning, Consultant, Booz Allen Hamilton - Critical infrastructure

He still has a rotary phone

VoIP can't offer the same quality and reliability as PSTN; mobile doesn't

We need to have multiple ways to connect to the net including copper, fiber, and coax

Sridhar Ramachandran, Chief Technologist, Telecordia - Toward carrier to carrier IP network interconnection

Three things are needed: discoverability, interoperability, and routing

Mobile carriers are already using 3d party networks to route calls between them [nb. the PSTN is already not the only switch in town]

Cablecos are exchanging voice traffic directly as well

Jon Banks, SVP, Law and Policy, USTelecom - Getting organized for industry transition

[last minute noshow: probably working on the Friday announcement]

Wrap-up - Daniel Berninger, President, GoCipher Software - American communication leadership

Dan went around the room asking: Is 2018 the right date? What should next steps be from Telecom2018? Are you willing to continue involvement?

Rough guess 2/3 think 2018 is as good a date as any, small minorities think that it is too late or that no date should be set until USF and ICC issues are settled.

Followup suggestions include web site with presentations and mechanism for discussion, another meeting in six months, coordination with TAC, criticism of TAC critical transitions working group for not having carrier representation, another meeting in six months, formation of working groups around issues.

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