Telecom Self Care: Will the New Network Be Good Enough?

Phone and broadband providers are currently transitioning legacy communications networks in a variety of technological ways: from copper to fiber, Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) Protocol to Internet Protocol (IP), and increasingly, to wireless networks. However, when a provider replaces your network, it needs to be comparable to the customer management and to the telecom order management service you had before, and there needs to be a system in place to make sure that happens. Public Knowledge has consistently urged the Commission to establish metrics to compare the services that carriers are discontinuing with telecom order to cash.

calculator-178127_640Without ensuring that new services are actually substitutes for the services being phased out, there is a risk that entire communities could lose critical functionality in their communications network. Furthermore, the consumer and public safety dangers posed by a poorly managed telecom real-time billing fall disproportionately upon rural, low-income, and coastal communities.

These same communities are typically the most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, depend most heavily on existing copper networks, and are the least informed about the telecom performance management or the fault management. Additionally, they have limited resources to file complaints about failed services. The Commission agreed that criteria needs to be established to evaluate what constitutes as an adequate substitute service for consumers, as well as criteria for approving whether telecom process management can be discontinued in the first place. It is currently accepting comments from the public to answer these questions.

This is simply a starting point for the FCC, and we support the establishment of clear, engineering-based metrics to determine whether new services are indeed comparable to the old services that the provider proposes to retire. But this will take time, and we need to have an evaluation system in revenue management. In the interim, we have urged the Federal Communications Commission to use six months of telecom product management —three months before discontinuance of service and three months after—to ensure functional substitutability of telecom managed services.