In the last two months, AT&T’s announcement that it will convert its existing traditional phone system to an Internet Protocol (IP) based network and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy have galvanized the telecom policy world. One would think the state of California would figure prominently in this discussion, and that people in California would have a huge vested interest in the outcome of these discussion. For example, given our newfound interest in disaster preparedness for IP networks in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, California (which, I’m told, has the occasional wildfire, deluge, mudslide or earthquake which causes power and telecom outages) might want to hold their own hearings and develop their own state plan and state standards. Similarly, with both AT&T and Verizon (both service providers in California) announcing they are replacing rural copper with wireless and converting their old-style phone networks to IP, you would think California would want to have some say in how these companies (and other IP network providers) serve the customers of their state.
Sadly for the people of California, you will not have that opportunity. All decisions on these matters relative to you will be left entirely to the private sector, or will take place in Washington D.C. Why? Because on September 28, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law S.B. 1161. This law, drafted by the fine people at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and introduced by Senator Alex Padilla, prohibits any agency of the state of California from regulating “voice over IP” or “Internet enabled service” (text of law here) (More on ALEC and its role in drafting the law here, here, and here). While this primarily focuses on the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), the law prohibits “any department, agency or political subdivision of the state” from doing anything to regulate VOIP or IP-based services.
How does this relate to Hurricane Sandy, emergency preparedness, and the conversion to all IP networks? I explain below . . .