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How Is the VoIP Transition Affecting Customers?

by Bhagwad Park

posted in Communications

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Telephone lines hadn't changed much over the last hundred years until the arrival of VoIP. It may have taken some time for the technology to gain momentum but with even legacy carriers switching over their copper networks to VoIP over fiber, the efficient new service is the future of voice communication.
VoIP has long been popular among certain population segments as an alternative to expensive landlines but there are vast areas where land lines offer the only reliable means of communication. Few carriers are interested in maintaining their aging copper networks and many customers are now using VoIP even though they are unaware of it. Nevertheless not all customers view the move to the new system as an upgrade for several reasons.
VoIP equipment requires power to function unlike copper landlines which continue to work even if the electricity goes out. This is especially important during a natural disaster, medical emergency or in rural areas where the power supply is intermittent. Some consumers may see an increase in their bills after the switch to VoIP because the new network is more expensive to maintain in isolated areas.
It is no surprise then that the FCC has mandated that legacy carriers with copper line networks have to abide by certain rules if they intend to switch customers over to VoIP. Some of the new rules include:
Notice period
If an operator intends to discontinue or replace the copper lines in a particular region, customers need to be given three months notice. It allows customers to look for alternatives or get used to the new equipment gradually.
FCC approval before discontinuation or replacement
The phone carrier also needs FCC approval before discontinuing, replacing or impairing service in any area. It ensures customers do not lose service abruptly and are not left without any alternative means of communication.
Comparable service, pricing, terms and conditions
Phone operators have an obligation to offer the same level of service with comparable pricing even after the switch to VoIP. This means the company cannot raise prices arbitrarily as a consequence of business related infrastructure decisions.
Emergency power backup
Since VoIP lines cannot function without power, the operator will have to provide an emergency backup generator. Such an alternative will be invaluable in case of extended power outages which - though rare - still happen.
These rules should make it clear to operators that phasing out legacy networks in favor of more advanced technology should not mean leaving some consumers without access to even basic voice calling.
About the Author: Bhagwad is an expert consultant on hosted PBX.
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