FTTH Council urges FCC to advance all-fiber upgrades over legacy copper networks

March 6, 2013
In a filing to FCC, the FTTH Council urges the Commission to support fiber deployments as "essential to America’s economic future."

The Fiber to the Home Council Americas (FTTH Council) has filed comments urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "to support the efforts of telephone companies to deploy all-fiber networks and eliminate their more costly and duplicative copper facilities once those fiber upgrades are made."

“It is clear that fiber technology is superior, that consumer demand is increasing rapidly for higher-performance networks, and, as a result, wireline providers of all types are by necessity deploying fiber plant,” the FTTH Council wrote in its comments filed with the FCC.

According to a press release, a group of competitive broadband providers, which under FCC “unbundling” regulations are afforded access to offer their services over legacy copper networks, have petitioned the FCC to require telephone companies to keep those networks in service after they upgrade to fiber. Given the high cost of maintaining old copper networks, FTTH Council said that such proposals would “turn back the clock” on the FCC's stated goal of accelerating private sector deployment of gigabit capable, all-fiber networks.

“The Commission has demonstrated it understands the great value of having high-performance networks deployed throughout the country and the need for regulatory policies to align with this objective,” the Council wrote.

Related: How the copper plant remains relevant in an FTTx environment

As examples, FTTH Council cited the FCC’s Broadband Acceleration Initiative to expand the reach of robust broadband, and its internal Broadband Acceleration Task Force that seeks to reduce barriers to broadband build-out by at least 20 percent, as well as federal broadband stimulus programs that have focused largely on bringing fiber to community anchor institutions and supporting fiber to the home projects in hundreds of rural communities.

The filing also quoted FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s recent statement that “high-speed broadband is vitally important to our global competitiveness and the continued growth of our economy, and we must keep pushing for faster speeds and greater capacity through new investments in broadband networks.”

The Council wrote that virtually no network provider is presently installing “new” copper in its access network in any meaningful way.

“Keeping copper lines in place after fiber is built imposes substantial additional costs on [local exchange carriers], materially harming the business case for fiber deployments,” the Council argued, saying that the overall effect will be to slow “the critical -- and inevitable -- evolution to all-fiber wireline communications infrastructure.”

To support its argument, FTTH Council cited the FCC’s 2010 National Broadband Plan finding that “requiring an incumbent to maintain two networks -- one copper and one fiber -- would be costly, possibly inefficient and reduce the incentive for incumbents to deploy fiber facilities.”

“In sum, the technology of choice for wireline network providers -- and for their customers -- is fiber,” the Council wrote. “And the real issue before policymakers is how to remove barriers and provide incentives to increase the pace of these deployments.”

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