The FCC gave the go ahead for a next-gen telephone network sending digitized voice and data through the internet rather than copper-based Plain Old Telephone Service and central offices.
AT&T and Verizon received a nod to test moving telephone services from existing circuit-switch technology to Internet protocol to see how the change may affect consumers.
The experiments would not test the new technology – it is already being used. The trials would seek to establish, among other things, how consumers welcome the change and how new technology performs in emergency situations, including in remote locations.
The IP transition tests allow companies that offer landline phone services to ultimately replace their old copper wires with newer technology like fiber or wireless.
“We cannot continue requiring service providers to invest in both old networks and new networks forever,” Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, said.
More than a third of adults use cellphones as their only form of phone service, up from just 5 percent a decade ago. Federal regulations require phone companies to maintain the plain, old telephone system even as they continue building out advanced networks that imposes costs and slows investment.
Meanwhile, consumer advocates caution that moving too quickly to an IP-based phone network could leave some Americans behind.