hn Hicks, a coal miner from
Similarly, small businesses--particularly those in areas with terrain inhospitable to wireless service--are vulnerable to losing necessary communications services if this transition is not handled responsibly. If a business's wireline connection is replaced with a service like Voice Link that does not support internet access or credit card processing, they risking going out of business entirely. If a restaurant cannot take your credit card because it only has a voice line, or its service was just dropped, you likely won't be inclined to return. When a coffee shop can no longer offer WiFi because its internet connection has been taken away, the fact that the shop might have an almost-as-reliable wireless voice-only service in its stead will be cold comfort as it watches paying customers walk out the door.
These are the risks faced by every area that faces potential natural disasters, every town that contains small businesses, and every community that wants this transition to be a step forward, not a step backward. This is why we must be diligent in shaping a phone network transition that creates new, better services protected by strong, certain rules.
A Cautionary Tale: Transitioning After Natural Disasters
It is clear that the continued success of our communications networks depends on reasoned rules and strong consumer protection during and after the phone network transition, and that need is even greater in communities likely to experience or already experiencing the transition, like rural areas and areas damaged by natural disasters. The examples we have already seen where carriers have transitioned communities to new networks on their own initiative warn us of what happens if policymakers do not step in to protect consumers. Without strong guidance, we all face the very real danger that the phone network transition will be a technological step backward and a downgrade in consumer protection.
Communities and their residents have always had to deal with temporary network outages after natural disasters, but now that we are in the midst of the phone network transition, we are seeing instances where carriers want to respond to damaged networks by replacing the existing networks with new, untested services, rather than repairing or rebuilding the infrastructure the community has relied on for decades. Like the rest of the phone network transition, this can be an opportunity for better, newer service for the community, but unfortunately we have already seen how it can also force customers--who are already trying to rebuild their lives after a devastating natural disaster--to accept less reliable, more restricted services than what they had before.
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