Thursday, December 03, 2009

FCC puts broadband in proper perspective

The term broadband -- generally used to refer to Internet connectivity beyond first generation dial up access -- is a component of the larger transformation of the telecommunications infrastructure. The legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) system that relies on copper cables and central office switches owned by the phone companies is of the pre Internet period. In the post Internet age, the Internet itself is becoming the phone system. Routers take the place of telephone switches and fiber optics supersede copper cable.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put broadband into its proper perspective in a public notice issued Dec. 1 calling for public comment on this conversion of telecommunications infrastructure from a "circuit switched network to an all-IP (Internet Protocol) network."

The notice describes broadband as "a leading indicator of the major transitions in communications technology and services" and "a growing platform over which the consumer accesses a multitude of services, including voice, data, and video in an integrated way across applications and providers."

The FCC notice shows the agency -- charged under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with developing recommendations for Congress by next February on how to best achieve universal broadband access -- is thinking beyond broadband and of the larger regulatory scheme in "the spirit of understanding the scope and breadth of the policy issues associated with this transition" and the "appropriate policy framework to facilitate and respond to" this shift.

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