Congressman Jared Huffman

Representing the 2nd District of California

Rep. Huffman to FCC Commissioner: Neglect of Copper Networks Threatens Health, Safety of North Coast Residents

Aug 5, 2015
Press Release
Huffman: “My constituents… have had their health, safety, and livelihood compromised by the neglect of copper networks.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today commended Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler on his plan to ensure that rural North Coast residents are not harmed as telecoms retire and replace copper networks. In a letter sent this week, Huffman voiced his support for Chairman Wheeler’s proposal before the FCC to update the agency’s rules governing the retirement of copper networks as well as their replacement by next-generation technology.

Currently, some telecommunications providers are de facto retiring their copper networks - also known as retiring by neglect -- putting the health and safety of rural Americans at risk. Wheeler’s proposal would change FCC rules and allow customers and the FCC to identify de facto retirement and take action when necessary. Wheeler’s proposal also ensures that consumers who are switched from copper to fiber networks will be offered rates, terms, and conditions comparable to legacy service.

“My constituents… have had their health, safety, and livelihood compromised by the neglect of copper networks,” Huffman said. “The retirement of copper networks by neglect-often referred to as de facto retirement-can have devastating impacts on communities, particularly those in rural America. I ask that the FCC be responsive to consumers that find their service has been discontinued, reduced, or impaired with the installation of next-generation networks.”

“As we transition away from copper-based phone systems, it is critical that safeguards be in place to ensure reliability and affordability. As a grassroots organization promoting broadband deployment in Mendocino County, we hear stories on a regular basis from local broadband providers and residents frustrated by prolonged repair times and poorly maintained copper networks,” said Trish Steel, Execuive Committee Chair, Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County. “The Alliance supports Congressman Huffman and the FCC’s efforts to ensure the implementation of new technologies do not come at the expense of the safety and economic well-being of our residents.”

Huffman also included examples of de facto retirement provided by Broadband Alliance of Mendocino.

A PDF of the letter can be found HERE and the text can be found below:

August 4, 2015

Hon. Tom Wheeler, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

I write in strong support of your proposal to ensure consumers are protected as copper networks are retired and replaced by next-generation networks. I also urge your colleagues to support this important proposal, which will provide a backstop for my constituents, who have had their health, safety, and livelihood compromised by the neglect of copper networks.

The retirement of copper networks by neglect-often referred to as de facto retirement-can have devastating impacts on communities, particularly those in rural America.

Telecommunications providers that fail to properly maintain copper networks put the health and safety of consumers at great risk, which can be compounded in the event of natural disasters or severe weather. I submit for your review examples shared with me from the Broadband Alliance of Mendocino, which, like other consortiums in Northern California, have carefully documented the long-term neglect of copper networks and are therefore supportive of strong consumer safeguards moving forward.

In implementing your proposal, I ask that the FCC be responsive to consumers that find their service has been discontinued, reduced, or impaired with the installation of next-generation networks. I also ask that you proactively ensure telecommunications providers replacing copper networks offer rates, terms, and conditions that are comparable to legacy service. Notification alone is not a sufficient safeguard. Consumers must have proper recourse to ensure these critical lifelines are well-maintained and accessible.

Thank you for your work in expanding high-speed connectivity to rural America, and in protecting consumers as next-generation networks are deployed. I look forward to the FCC's continued attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,
Congressman Jared Huffman

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