The FCC Is Beta Testing the Future US Phone Network

We already knew that the FCC had plans to rewrite the technology that supports the nation's ageing landline phone network, and now its decided to start beta testing new infrastructure to ensure it can deliver.

A unanimous vote at the FCC on Thursday approved trials intended to study how shifting all the nations land lines to next-gen infrastructure—capable of services like HD voice calls and video—will affect customers. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel explained:

"Sandbox thinking is very popular among start-ups in Silicon Valley, but why not put it to use in Washington? Testing big ideas in a small way is a good way to understand the consequences of our policy choices and the impact on consumers before unleashing them on the world at large."

Trials will kick off in select locations around the US, run by participating carriers. They'll evaluate how practical it is to route a nation's phone calls using the same Internet Protocol that powers the web, in particular assessing how emergency communications will be disrupted, how to assign new phone numbers, and the impact on rolling out high-speed broadband to rural areas. Phone companies will also be able to submit their own proposals for testing.

The transition to all communication using such technology may sound quaint—many of us have made a similar shift already, afterall—but opening it up to everyone as standard is a big move with weighty advantages. It's a symbolic moment: the death of analog, the rise of digital. Hello, future. [Washington Post]

Image by The Nick Page under Creative Commons license