AT&T, Verizon, Other Carriers Get to Test Move to All-IP Networks

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Did the FCC just sound copper's death knell?

The agency on Thursday issued an unofficial announcement of commission action that "voluntary experiments" of IP networks – fiber, wireless or coaxial cable – may begin, leading to the eventual retirement of copper.

That's music to the ears of companies including AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon, Sprint and others. Indeed, the FCC action is a response to a 2012 AT&T request to start testing a transition to IP networks. The FCC granted the request, noting that public safety communications must remain available no matter what; that all Americans must have access to affordable communications services; and that competition and consumer protections remain. 

Providers are able to submit proposals for testing IP services as alternatives to legacy technologies in specific geographies or situations. The proposals are due by Feb. 20, and will feature a public comment and reply period that ends on March 31. The final decision on the proposals will come at the FCC's May meeting.

Reaction from carriers and their lobbying associations was swift and positive.

The FCC's unofficial order comes about three years after the agency first started talking about retiring the PSTN by 2018.

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