Chairman Pryor, Ranking Member Wicker, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the state of our nation's wireline communications networks. My name is
The transition of our wireline networks to Internet Protocol (IP)-based services is a tremendous opportunity for our nation, but we must make sure the transition results in an actual upgrade in technology without a downgrade in the services upon which Americans depend. Right now we are in the midst of the transition: carriers are already actively moving their networks from the traditional Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) protocol to IP-based technology. At the same time, we are seeing carriers show increasing interest in replacing their copper infrastructure with wireless service or with fiber for portions of their networks, often depending on the density and average income of each particular market.
For decades, our country has used reasonable rules based on fundamental principles to build a phone network that became the envy of the world. We are the country that brought a phone to every farm--the country that built a network you can count on. We accomplished this by moving certain fundamental values forward with us as our communications networks evolved since the founding of our country. As we now face the opportunities and challenges of implementing the next generation of communications technology, we must continue to leave no one behind.
For decades, the phone network in the U.S. has quietly and reliably provided benefits to the American public. These benefits have become so firmly engrained in the U.S. economy, public safety systems, and personal communications that users take for granted the consumer protections and competition policies that make them possible. These benefits were not a happy accident--they were the result of deliberate communications policies that demanded a telecommunications network that served its users first and foremost.
Just listing a few of the things we love about our phone network reveals how we are so used to relying on the protections of the phone network we often don't even notice them. We conduct our business and personal communications as if we can always trust that the phone network will just work--because it will. We can choose to use whatever phone we want. When the power goes out during a natural disaster, our phones--and the central offices that service them--will keep working. In times of emergency, we can always call for aid from police, firefighters, and medical teams. When someone calls a friend on another phone network, that call will always go through--regardless of which carriers the two users subscribe to or where they each live. When the bill comes for that call, the user can rest assured that there will be no fraudulent charges and the carrier will not have "traded" her to another carrier without her permission. If a user changes phone companies, she can keep her phone number. We know that we can benefit from the innovations and features built on the phone network because it is an open platform: innovations like the internet, new handsets, calling cards, and collect calls. And in the rare instance that any part of this system breaks down, we know that there are government authorities at the local, state, and federal levels equipped to fix the problem and protect users' interests.
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