State and federal officials have given telecommunications companies the all-clear to improve or radically transform traditional telephone service.
Already the number of American households with wireless, fiber optic or some form of digital cable connection far exceeds those relying solely on the circuits, switches and copper wire of traditional telephone lines to communicate.
Industry experts agree that eventually beaming packets of data through Internet Protocol will spell the end of the copper-wire equipment relied on to transmit conversations for more than a century. The only question is how long the transition will take and what communications will look like when it’s done.
In a November blog post, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communication Commission, Tom Wheeler, called the ongoing telecommunications revolution away from traditional phones “a good thing” that could stimulate innovation.
“History has shown that new networks catalyze innovation, investment, ideas and ingenuity,” Wheeler wrote. “Their spillover effects can transform society – think of the creation of industrial organizations and the standardized time zones that followed in the wake of the railroad and telegraph.”
Wheeler said the FCC will begin “experiments” to test how the migration to Internet Protocol will impact different groups of Americans and the regulatory systems that now oversee telephone service.
Closer to home, the R.I. General Assembly passed a bill last summer codifying that the R.I. Public Utilities Commission and R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, which regulate telecommunications, will not have any oversight of wireless phone service.