What are the Tech Transitions?

Communications networks that have served Americans for over a century are changing – from copper-based legacy networks originally built solely to carry basic voice services to alternative platforms built for a variety of purposes, including broadband, video, data and voice. The transitions involve changing to network equipment that uses Internet Protocol or "IP" language to communicate, and changing the pathways that make up communications networks from copper wire to a mixture of coaxial cable, optical fiber, copper, and wireless technology. 

Why do the Tech Transitions matter?

Americans have come to expect secure, reliable and innovative communications services.  It is important for the FCC to help speed market-driven technology transitions and innovation, while at the same time ensuring preservation of the core values of our communications laws – public safety, widespread and affordable access, competition and consumer protection.

How do FCC rules for Tech Transitions protect me?

Providers upgrading their networks and migrating to IP-based services must adhere to FCC rules designed to protect customers. Recent updates to rules focus on:

  • Ensuring reliable backup power
  • Making sure that consumers are informed about their choices
  • Providing consumers options in preserving competition where it exists today

What are the concerns about backup power and how are they being addressed?

Traditional landline service typically works during power outages, but modern alternatives usually need backup power to keep operating. New FCC rules require providers to provide consumers with:

  • Information about this topic
  • The option to purchase backup power to last for eight hours
  • The option to purchase backup power for 24 hours within the next three years

Consumers can decline back-up power options and will not be forced to purchase or pay for equipment they do not want.

What prior notice will I receive if my service will be affected?

  • Service providers must directly notify residential consumers of plans to retire copper networks at least three months in advance
  • Non-residential retail customers must be notified least six months in advance
  • Providers planning to discontinue, reduce or impair service on copper networks must first receive FCC approval

What has been done to prepare for the Tech Transitions?

The FCC is committed to advancing its longstanding competition and consumer protection policies on a technologically-neutral basis in order to ensure that the deployment of innovative and improved communications services can continue without delay. 

To inform decisions related to the Tech Transitions, the FCC launched targeted data collection initiatives in 2014 to evaluate how customers are affected by technology transitions.  The FCC is also overseeing several service-based experiments conducted by carriers in order to examine the impact on consumers and businesses of replacing existing services with IP-based alternatives.

The FCC also sponsored targeted experiments and cooperative research to learn how new technologies can more effectively reach all Americans, including individuals with disabilities, and provided funding for rural broadband experiments to help the FCC understand what kinds of next-generation networks can best serve the needs of rural America.   Additionally, consumers were given the opportunity to provide input on the experiments using the FCC's public comment process.     

The FCC also has adopted rules that for the first time will require "incumbent" carriers to notify customers when they shift connections to customers' premises from copper without customers' consent.  The required notice will have to provide clear information on the impact and timing of the change and on what services will be available after fiber is installed. When carriers seek to eliminate or reduce the services that they provide to communities, they must first get FCC approval. 

The FCC has requested public input to help determine what criteria to consider when evaluating whether modern services will be adequate replacements for legacy services carriers seek to eliminate or reduce, such as:

  • network capacity and reliability
  • service quality
  • device and service interoperability
  • service for individuals with disabilities, including compatibility with assistive technologies
  • emergency service
  • cybersecurity
  • service functionality
  • coverage

Filing a complaint

You have multiple options for filing a complaint:

  • File a complaint online
  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL: 1-844-432-2275
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

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Tech Transition Guide (PDF)

Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Saturday, November 7, 2015 - 3:30pm