The FCC's New Chairman Wants to Rewrite How Phones Work

Tom Wheeler, the newly crowned chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has ambitious plans. He's already on a crusade to get carriers to allow cellphone unlocking, and now he plans to rewrite the technology that supports the nation's ageing landline phone network.

That modest goals comes to light in a New York Times article which quotes Wheeler claiming that the FCC will begin a "diverse set of experiments" next year. Those experiments will, apparently, see the nation's landline telephone system transition from one of circuits and wires to a rather more digitial one, transmitting phone calls in a similar way to VoIP. Writing in a blog post, Wheeeler explained:

"This is what I call the Fourth Network Revolution. History has shown that new networks catalyze innovation, investment, ideas and ingenuity. Their spillover effects can transform society — think of the creation of industrial organizations and the standardized time zones that followed in the wake of the railroad and telegraph."

Obviously plenty of us already use the likes of Skype, but the transition to all landline phones using such technology would bring some weighty advantages. Not least the fact that a digital system can allow more information to be transmitted, making video calls a possibility on the standard phone network.

While it's easy to dismiss the ideas as quaint, it's worth taking a moment to realise what a symbolic moment it would represent: the death of analog, the rise of digital. Goodbye, copper wire, we still love you. Honest. [NYT]

Image by tantrum_dan under Creative Commons license