UPDATE- after multiple requests on an accessible hearing re: the State Telecommunications Study,
Study on the State of Telecommunications in New York State
About the Initiative
|In early 2014, the Department of Public Service notified State legislative leaders that it had launched a comprehensive examination and study of the telecommunications industry in New York. The study, which will include opportunities for public input, will include an analysis of the varying telecommunications technologies used today, including fiber-to-the-premises, cable, wireless, and landline technologies. The study will explore emergency response systems, regulatory oversight, quality of service, consumer protections, and affordability. The framework that will guide the examination includes the following areas: status of competition for communications services and networks; current and future consumer expectations; core public interest principles to be maintained; reliability, resiliency and interoperability of networks; and assessment of national and international approaches to ensuring core public interest principles and robust communications capabilities are maintained.
As noted in Chair Zibelman’s May 13, 2014 letter to State legislative leaders, it is highly desirable for the industry, education, government, unions, consumer and other public interest groups to have a forum to publicly and affirmatively present views on the current status of telecommunications in the state. Through the examination of these questions in public settings, with all the relevant stakeholders, a fair picture of the status of telecommunications in New York can emerge. The study will include public technical conferences on various forward-looking topics and formal public input to the final report. The public input will form a basic set of facts and vision to inform the Commission, Legislature and the Governor in order to set a rational and balanced approach to oversight of the interconnected telecommunications network of the future.
MICHAEL CORSO at the NYS Dept of Public Service came back and said we can’t turn off the Wi-Fi and how about if the EHS people testify first so they can get out quickly?
I said- NO- that was like a wheelchair ramp that only goes 75% of the way into the building and no one with EHS would drive to Albany and then be forcibly exposed and not properly accommodated.
Wi-Fi must be off on floor and entrance at least, request for phones to be powered down, no cell tower nearby and modern fluorescent lights off where possible.
If you want to weigh in- call
email@example.com/ Phone: 518-474-4686
To access the Telecommunications Study, go to: www.dps.ny.qov/TelStudy
key excerpts from Study to be discussed at the hearings:
Migration to wireless communications has been a major trend in voice services. Along
with the proliferation of advanced personal electronics with improved features and functionality, and the emergence of Wi-Fi hotspots, wireless networks have led to a new era of voice communications. As these networks continue to deploy more advanced technologies, like LTE, consumers are expected to experience greater quality and reliability which could lead to additional future migrations as their primary voice platform. The move to wireless platforms is not limited to wireless cellular networks, however, as cable companies have also begun to offer wireless voice services over their expanded Wi-Fi networks.
The trend away from traditional wireline services aligns with both National and State
surveys of consumer preference. The most recent National Health Interview Survey on Wireless Substitution, commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dated July 2014, found that, “the number of American homes with only wireless telephones continues to grow. Two in every five American homes (41.0%) had only wireless telephones.” In the 2006 Competition III Order (Comp III Order), the Commission noted that 9.4% of U.S. wireless 20 subscribers used a wireless phone as their primary phone. In New York, a November 2014 survey conducted by the Siena College Research Institute in New York for AT&T indicated that 28% of upstate households (21% statewide) rely only on mobile wireless for voice service.
The Commission’s regulatory policies and practices over telecommunication providers
have evolved with technological changes in the industry. In 1994, the Commission initiated its Competition II proceeding which articulated its four overarching “core” principles: (1) ensuring the provision of quality telecommunications services at reasonable rates, (2) where feasible, allowing competition to be the most efficient means to achieve that goal, (3) recognizing that regulation should reflect market conditions, and (4) acknowledging that providers in like circumstances should be subject to like regulations. Throughout this transition to more competitive markets, the Commission has attempted to balance the needs of consumers for protection from business practices that might endanger their health, safety and welfare against the adequacy of market forces to provide those protections.
At the time of the Commission Order adopting Verizon’s revised SQIP, the company reported approximately 400,000 core customers and 4.96 million total access lines. As of December 2014, through customer migrations to other services and service providers (including Verizon wireless or other VoIP companies) or other circumstances, the number of core customers remaining on the Verizon’s wireline network has declined to less than 200,000, a reduction of about 50%.
Lifeline Telephone Service
The Lifeline telephone service program was implemented by the FCC in 1985 in the
wake of the 1984 divestiture of AT&T. Its initial purpose was to ensure that any increase in local rates that occurred following major changes in the marketplace would not make local phone service unaffordable for low-income households and result in service disconnection. There are mechanisms in place to ensure that carriers recover their cost of providing Lifeline service. Those carriers designated as Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETC) are eligible to receive Federal Universal Service Funding for Lifeline up to $9.25 per customer. New York carriers are also allowed recovery of their Lifeline costs, exclusive of any Federal Lifeline support, via procedures governed by the Targeted Accessibility Fund of New York, Inc.
Lifeline service being available to traditional and competitive wireline customers, Time Warner Cable also offers a VoIP-based Lifeline service.
Subscribership to traditional wireline Lifeline services in New York peaked in 1996, at
more than 768,000 lines. Since then, Lifeline enrollment has been declining and, as of year-end 2014, total wireline enrollment in New York amounted to only 137,000 lines.
Part of the recent decline in wireline Lifeline is due to an FCC initiative to eliminate
duplicative subscriptions, including thousands in New York, where customers were enrolled and receiving both wireline and wireless Lifeline services. Those customers were given the choice of maintaining either a wireline or wireless Lifeline service, but not both. The net result of that reform was that many customers dropped their wireline enrollments for wireless Lifeline service, and the wireline figures for 2012 and 2013 declined further as duplicate enrollments were eliminated from the system.
The most significant growth in the Lifeline service category, however, is evident in the
consumer adoption of wireless Lifeline service. Wireless companies, such as Cricket
Communications, I-Wireless, Tracfone Wireless, and Virgin Mobile actively promote wireless Lifeline service. In the relatively short span of five years, wireless Lifeline subscriptions have ballooned from just a few thousand, to over 1 million. The level of wireless Lifeline subscriptions in 2013 has surpassed even the peak wireline subscriptions of the mid-1990s.
Copper Retirement and Replacement
Although fiber technology has been used for decades in traditional telephone networks,
for interoffice transport and to serve digital loop carrier systems, the deployment of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) is a relatively new development in the long history of telephony. Most all of the Frontier network in New York State remains copper-based. While Frontier’s telephone (voice) service quality has not been an issue, the company’s ability to provide modern high-speed Internet (data) service on a going-forward basis will become more and more limited without an assertive fiber build-out schedule.
The mass migration of customers to alternative communications modes over the last
decade, and the resulting reduction of access lines and associated revenue, has strained the
business case for narrow band legacy copper networks whose copper plant has contributed to declining service quality performance in some instances. Aging copper plant is an issue in both urban areas of New York, where Verizon’s fiber technology may run parallel to copper, as well as rural areas, where fiber deployment is less prevalent.
Except for the few areas where it has provided notification of copper facility retirement,
Verizon still maintains its copper network, even in areas where FiOS is broadly deployed.
Pursuant to its franchise with New York City, Verizon committed to a complete build-out of FiOS for video service by June 2014. However, the Commission is aware that in some
neighborhoods and many buildings in NYC, FiOS is not readily available to customers for
various reasons. In many areas of New York City, the legacy copper infrastructure is in such poor condition that copper failures due to weather conditions can cause long delays for service restoration and Commission service quality standards are missed. To keep customers connected, the company offers Voice Link as a permanent service or as an interim solution until copper can be repaired. In many instances, the migration to FiOS may not be readily available so the company faces a difficult repair or lengthy replacement of the copper facility to serve a reduced customer base.
The challenges of the NYC FiOS build and the Fire Island experience illustrates many of
the difficulties faced by companies and communities related to the retirement and replacement of copper-based TDM networks and the transition to IP, FTTP and wireless networks. There is a general concern in areas solely served by copper networks that repairs are not unduly delayed as carriers transition to other technologies. The PSC must also ensure that copper retirements are not being accelerated as an artificial means to degrade competition, raise consumer prices or otherwise reduce consumer protections.
Mobile wireless broadband, while not necessarily a full substitute for wired broadband, is available to nearly all households, whether or not a wired broadband service is available. Fixed point-to-point wireless is a nascent service beginning to be offered to some rural customers and according to Appendix C reaches approximately 12% of the New York State census blocks.
The state’s mobile (cellular) wireless broadband system has expanded tremendously in
the last few years, and consumers are subscribing to wireless broadband faster than any other mode available to them. The deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE, or 4G) service throughout most of the state by companies like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, has raised the broadband bar. Consumers can now subscribe to mobile (cellular) wireless data plans from a variety of providers with download speeds in excess of 50 Mbps with the additional ability to take this service with them, just as with mobile voice service. Additional wireless spectrum, recently auctioned by the FCC to 15 winning bidders providing service in New York, should significantly add to existing capacity and allow further expansion of wireless broadband services and enhanced competition. Nationally, the FCC’s AWS-3 auction raised nearly $45 billion, of which $6.8 billion, or 15.1% of the total bid revenues, were for wireless spectrum licenses in New York State market areas.
As more consumers adopt wireless services for their voice, data, and video needs,
companies are expanding their service coverage and broadband speeds to meet consumer
demand (as noted in the video section of this report, while functionally capable of providing video services, wireless broadband connections are not currently a viable option for most households’ video needs and may include significant data caps at present). Table 13 depicts the aggregate number of wireless broadband connections in service between 2009 and 2013. The accompanying Figure 14 map shows the LTE broadband service coverage of the four national wireless carriers as of April 2014. Over the last two years, LTE broadband coverage has expanded significantly, providing subscribers with access to faster data speeds from more providers than ever before. The significant growth of wireless broadband connections over the past few years is reflective of the expanded service coverage of wireless broadband networks over that same time period.
Table 13: Mobile Wireless Broadband Connections
As reflected in Appendix A, the extent of the Commission’s authority or jurisdiction over
broadband services is limited and at present, not fully defined. While the Commission has a duty under the Federal law to encourage the deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure, it cannot price regulate or restrict entry of broadband networks. At the same time, however, the Commission does have some authority over the networks that provide broadband through its authority over telephone and cable providers: most notably, in 2014, the Commission’s authority over cable mergers and transfers was strengthened to require that an applicant make a showing that a given transaction is in the public interest. In its comments to the Commission in Case 14-M-0183, related to the Comcast Merger, Staff recognized that the Commission has a core interest in ensuring broadband access and affordability for all New Yorkers and stated that any review of a cable merger must include an analysis of a transaction’s impacts on broadband service.
Staff advocated that, among other things, the Commission should examine customer
service, and, consistent with the statewide push toward universal 100 Mbps service, Staff
argued that faster broadband service should be made available to a larger segment of New
York’s consumers as the result of any cable merger through investments in the system to address physical access limitations and through commitments to address the digital divide.
APPENDIX A: High Level Overview of
Public Service Law Jurisdiction & Commission Core Interests