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Keeping copper “alive” places expectations and cost burdens on the companies that provided these original copper wires to our homes. When those companies were regulated monopolies, those expectations made sense. But the telephone market, thanks to the Clinton administration and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, has become a competitive arena in which a variety of wired and wireless technologies compete aggressively, in contrast to the regulated monopoly system that preceded it. The benefits of that deregulation are visible everywhere as the Internet grows in scope and speed, fueled by over a trillion dollars of private investment since the 1996 Act.
Why slow that process down by requiring some of these companies to keep these antiquated networks alive? There are plenty of ways to guarantee access to first-responders and ensure some basic level of service without prolonging the life of the old copper loop networks. The FCC would serve us better if it raced to embrace the future, not protect the past.
Ev Ehrlich is a former undersecretary of Commerce under the Clinton administration.