The mixed blessing of a deregulatory endpoint for the public switched telephone network

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Abstract

Receiving authority to dismantle the wireline public switched telephone network (PSTN) will deliver a mixture of financial benefits and costs to incumbent carriers and also jeopardize longstanding legislative and regulatory goals seeking ubiquitous, affordable and fully interconnected networks. Even if incumbent carriers continue to provide basic telephone services via wireless facilities, they will benefit from substantial relaxation of common carriage duties, no longer having to serve as the carrier of last resort and having the opportunity to decide whether and where to provide service. On the other hand, incumbent carriers may have underestimated the substantial financial and marketplace advantages they also will likely lose in the deregulatory process. Legislators and policy makers also may have underestimated the impact of no longer having the ability to impose common carrier mandates that require carriers to interconnect so that end users have complete access to network services regardless of location. This paper will identify the potential problems resulting from prospective decisions by National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs), such as the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to grant authority for telecommunications service providers to discontinue PSTN services. The paper also will consider whether in the absence of common carrier duties, private carriers providing telephone services, including Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP), voluntarily will agree to interconnect their networks. The paper will examine three recent carrier interconnection issues with an eye toward assessing whether a largely unregulated marketplace will create incentives for carriers to interconnect networks so that consumers will have ubiquitous access to PSTN replacement and other broadband services. The paper concludes that private carrier interconnection models and information service regulatory oversight may not solve all disputes, or promote universal service public policy goals. Recent Internet interconnection and television program carriage disputes involving major players such as Comcast, Level 3, Fox, Cablevision and Google point to the possibility of increasingly contentious negotiations that could result in balkanized telecommunications networks with at least temporary blockages to desired content and services by some consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-412
Number of pages13
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Volume37
Issue number4-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2013

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Information Systems
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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