What Comes Next in the IP Transition: Data Collection
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is kick-starting data collection initiatives that will allow both the Commission and the public to evaluate how customers are affected by the historic technology transitions that are transforming our nation’s voice communications services – from a network based on time-division multiplexed (TDM) circuit-switched voice services running on copper loops to an all-Internet Protocol (IP) network using copper, co-axial cable, wireless, and fiber as physical infrastructure (generally referred to as the IP Transition). To help evaluate and accelerate the IP Transition, the FCC is exploring ways to evaluate its current data gathering efforts, extend them as appropriate, and obtain a more comprehensive factual account of the transition and how it is impacting network values. In particular, data that deepen the understanding of how the transition is affecting consumers will enrich the ongoing public dialogue about how the FCC may best advance these transitions while ensuring that consumers and enduring values -- public safety, ubiquitous and affordable access, competition, and consumer protection -- are protected. The FCC expects the data will both expand the scope of the discussion as new challenges are brought to the table, and keep the FCC on track by taking off the table issues based solely on unfounded concerns that sometimes arise in an informational vacuum. The FCC seeks public input on four principles to guide its data collection and three distinct ways to enhance its data collection efforts related to the IP Transition.
I. Principles for Data Collection
The FCC is inviting feedback on the following principles it says will guide ongoing data collection efforts:
- An open, transparent process: What questions should be asked, how should the FCC ask them, and who should it ask?
- Diverse sources: The FCC will strive to collect data from multiple sources, including outside experts and advisors; collaboration with other federal agencies, State, local, Tribal governments and leaders; automated data gathering; and crowd-sourcing.
- Clarity and consistency: The FCC recognizes the need for clear and consistent definitions and metrics as a precondition to enabling the analytical comparisons and aggregation of feedback necessary to provide a comprehensive picture of the IP transition experience.
- Open data: The FCC plans to make all of the data it gathers publicly available as a resource to all interested parties, while protecting privacy concerns. The Commission wants to give all stakeholders the tools they need to do their own analysis and help regulators as they examine the impact of the IP transition.
The FCC also asks if there are additional principles that should guide its data collection.
II. Gathering Data to Document the IP Transition from the Consumer’s Perspective
The FCC seeks public input on three distinct ways to enhance its data collection efforts related to the IP transition:
- Enhancing Consumer Complaints and Inquiries Data: The FCC is committed to enhancing its complaint intake, analysis, and reporting, including by improving the searchability of its consumer complaints database. The FCC is seeking public input on specific categories for gathering and analyzing complaints, e.g., call quality and dropped calls, along with other service-related issues such as slamming, cramming and violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act which restricts telemarketing.
- Working with State, local and Tribal Governments: The FCC seeks to develop common definitions, categories and metrics that will allow for comparisons of consumer experiences in different parts of the country and enable an aggregation and sharing of consumer data nationwide to create a more comprehensive picture of the consumer experience as networks transition.
- Increasing the Transparency of the Consumer Data: The FCC seeks public input on how to improve its public quarterly reports on informal consumer complaints and consumer inquiries while preserving consumer privacy. The FCC also seeks ideas on how it can supplement its data-gathering process beyond consumer complaints and inquiries with methods like consumer surveys, automated measuring tools, and a “boots-on-the-ground” approach.
III. Next Generation 911 Observation
The FCC believes that a focus on the nation’s 911 infrastructure and the networks that support it must be a part of its evaluation of the IP Transition. Since public safety officials and industry cautioned the FCC against all-IP next generation 911 (NG911) trials, the FCC seeks comment on ways it can collect and make available data outside of experiments to facilitate NG911 deployments while preserving and enhancing the enduring network value of public safety. The FCC proposed collecting data, on a voluntary basis, on NG911 progress from major commercial entities that are involved in NG911 implementation on a national scale, including carriers, 911 system service providers, and NG911 system vendors. The FCC seeks public input on these questions:
- What precise information should the Commission collect from the vendor community?
- How can the FCC best structure data submissions to address any confidentiality concerns?
- Are there specific concerns that the FCC should take into account in the data requests related to technical and operational specifications of vendor equipment deployed for NG911 systems or proffered in response to State, local, or Tribal government requests for information or solicitations?
- How should the data be synthesized and presented to elicit lessons learned and/or best practices?
- Is there other information that vendors can provide on a regular basis that assist the FCC and other stakeholders in assessing the IP transition and the implementation of NG911?
IV. Data Collection and Enduring Values
In addition to the data above, the FCC is seeking public input on a broader, more comprehensive assessment of how it can best collect data to better understand the enduring values and how they are impacted by the technology transitions. The FCC wants to assess what data it collects now, where there are gaps, and how it can best fill those gaps. The FCC seeks better information on key questions posed by the transition:
- Where are we in the transitions?
- How are the transitions affecting the core values?
- What matters most to consumers and industry participants, and what trade-offs are most acceptable?
The FCC is asking interested parties to identify suitable sources of data that would allow the commission to reach beyond its current incomplete state of knowledge to identify important questions. By way of example, the FCC poses some questions it would like to explore:
- For wireless-only households, i.e., with no landline voice service, what fraction still use DSL for broadband, i.e., depends on the local wired copper loop for Internet access?
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data illustrates that different demographic groups and regions of the country are “cutting the cord” at very different rates. Why do some consumers drop their landline voice service, while others continue to use both wireless and wireline voice?
- What is the impact of the IP transition on employment in the telecommunications sector, including skill distribution and income?
- Are there measurable impacts of the IP transition on economic efficiency and productivity?
- How important are specific features of landline service, such as choice of long-distance provider or central-office power, to different demographic groups and what kind of economic value do consumers attach to these features?
- Who would benefit most from new services, such as video, real-time text or HD audio?
V. Impact of the IP Transition on Healthcare
Given the tremendous technological advancements impacting health care and telemedicine, the FCC seeks comment on data to help inform the Commission about the impact on health care facilities and their patients. Specifically, the FCC invites proposals that would promote partnerships with public and private stakeholders to gather and analyze data on the needs, implications, and impacts of the technology transitions on health care providers and their patients.
This is the third in a series of articles by the Benton Foundation. The first piece looked at voluntary, service-based, IP Transition experiments the FCC is inviting. The second article looked at the FCC’s additional proposals for targeted experiments and cooperative research to explore the impact of technology transitions that focus on universal access. To follow developments in the IP Transition, visit The IP Transition: From Phone to Fiber.