The FCC has voted 3-2 along party lines on rules for carriers transitioning from copper landline to fiber-power IP networks.
The agency has revised copper retirement rules to require carriers to give consumers sufficient notice on the changeover and how it will affect them.
It also requires carriers to provide access to their new networks to wholesalers and wholesaler/competitive retailers at reasonably comparable terms and conditions. That is an interim requirement until the FCC completes its rulemaking on new special-access rules in the IP world.
The commission also teed up in a further notice a look at the adequacy of replacement services.
The Republican commissioners slammed the decision. Commissioner Ajit Pai said the FCC would be slowing down the IP transition and deepening the digital divide.
"Chicken Little rules the roost," Pai said.
"The Commission now requires carriers to seek permission before discontinuing almost every [network] feature no matter how little-used or old-fashioned," he added. "That means the FCC gets to micromanage each and every change that a carrier makes to its network."
Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly suggested the access requirement sounded like a backdoor to rate regulation.
Chairman Tom Wheeler said he chuckled at the suggestion of rate regulation. He said the FCC was reaffirming the compact between networks and the people who use them.
He said it is about letting consumers know about transitions in plenty of time and continuing to provide comparable services to those leasing capacity, including wholesalers providing retail competition.