Monday, April 30, 2012 FCC Releases First Funds in Universal Service Fund Transition - Officially launches Connect America fund, part of its long-term National Broadband Plan

The FCC Wednesday officially launched its Connect America fund, an expansion of its phone subsidy program to broadband support, which is part of its long-term National Broadband Plan.

The FCC voted last fall to reform the Universal Service Fund with an eye toward freeing up money to help migrate phone subsidies to broadband subsidies, where all the telecom action is these days. 

In this first phase of funding, dubbed a "transitional mechanism to distribute high cost universal service support to price cap carriers," phone companies have 90 days to take the money and run with its aggressive build-out requirements. The FCC is expecting those companies to be spending some of their own money as well to help extend broadband to rural "unserved homes and businesses."

The initial outlay is estimated to deliver broadband to up to 400,000 homes and businesses.

The announcement comes only two days before the FCC plans to launch the next phase in reforming the Universal Service Fund, which is to seek comment on how to  "reform and modernize" how the funds are assessed and collected.  Telecom carriers pay into the fund -- and pass that fee along to customers -- to subsidize phone-now broadband service -- where there is not a business case for it.
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/25/2012 5:11:33 PM

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cutting Your Traditional Landline Service May Not Be The Best Idea.

TURN: The Utility Reform Network says cutting your traditional landline service may not be the best idea if you are looking to rely on your cell phone for significant calling.

POTS, or plain old phone service, may not be glamorous but it is affordable. Dropping it will only save you money if you can keep your cell bills low. And you’ll pay a price in convenience, as well.
Cost comparisons depend on usage
First of all, cell phones are not always cheaper than landlines. If you sign up for an unlimited cell phone plan with data service, you could be paying about $100 per month or more. Basic landline telephone service with no bells and whistles might costs around $20 a month. The key is to buy what you need. If you make a lot of long distance calls the cell might be cheaper since most plans include long distance with your bucket of minutes. If you don’t talk long distance very much, the landline is probably the cheaper option. You can use the landline for local calls and get a prepaid cell phone for long distance calls and come out ahead.
Fast, direct emergency 911 access
With a landline telephone you also get more reliable 911 access. Currently calling 911 and E-911 service on a landline connects customers with local emergency service providers directly and immediately. Cable and cell phone providers are not required to route 911 calls to the nearest emergency service providers. In many areas of California, especially rural areas, most wireless calls are not answered locally but are routed to California Highway Patrol (CHP) centers.
Internet Access
You may also need a landline if you want DSL service. In some areas, DSL is still the best high speed Internet option. Have cable Internet? If you lose power, you lose your cable and your Internet and your cable phone service.
Beware of power outages
During a power outage, you don't lose your landline. You don't lose your cell phone, either, but what if the power outage lasts awhile? Cell towers will only run on a battery backup for so long before they also die. Remember, cell phones need to be charged, and cordless phones require electricity.
The safest solution? Hang on to your old fashioned, plain old phone, and your plain old phone service too. And keep cell phone bills low by being a smart and savvy cell phone consumer. 

408 Area Code Overlay

To ensure a continuing supply of telephone numbers, the 669 area code will be added to the area served by 408.  The new 669 area code will serve customers in the same geographic region as the current 408 area code.  This is known as an area code overlay.

What is an area code overlay?
An overlay is the addition of another area code (in this case 669) to the same geographic region as an existing area code (408).  An overlay does not require customers to change their existing area code.

How does this affect providers of Public Safety Answer Points (PSAPs)?
As a result of the overlay, a new dialing procedure requires callers to dial 1 + area code + telephone number. This means that all calls in the 408 area code that are currently dialed with seven digits will need to be dialed using 1 + area code + telephone number. 

All PSAP equipment, such as speed dialers, located in the 408 area code and programmed to dial only seven digits must be updated or reprogrammed to dial 1+ area code + telephone number for all calls in the 408/669 area code.

When will the change take place?
·      Beginning April 21, 2012, customers should begin using the new dialing procedure (1 + area code + telephone number) when placing calls from the 408 area code.  If customers forget and use the old dialing procedure of dialing just seven digits, calls will still be completed.
·      Beginning October 20, 2012, customers must use the new dialing procedure for all calls.  After this date, if customers do not use the new dialing procedure, calls will not be completed, and a recording will instruct them to hang up and dial again.
·      Reprogramming of PSAP equipment/systems should take place between April 21, 2012 and October 20, 2012. This period allows either the old or new dialing procedure to be used to complete calls.  All PSAPs must make their programming changes during this period.
·      To enable you to verify that equipment can complete calls to the new area code, a special test number will become available on August 20, 2012.  This special number, (669) 669-1669will remain active through January 20, 2013.
·      Beginning November 20, 2012, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers with the new 669 area code, and it will be necessary to dial 1 + area code + telephone number for all calls within the 408 and 669 area codes.

What will remain the same?
The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the overlay, and what is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed. Customers can still dial just three digits to reach 911, as well as 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 and 811.

If you have any questions about the overlay, you may contact your local service provider or the CPUC at (800) 848-5580. Information about the overlay is also available at