Verizon says de facto copper retirement concept inhibits fiber migration, creates uncertainty

Verizon has asked the FCC to get rid of the so-called de facto retirements from its copper retirement definition, arguing that it could create uncertainty in the process of shutting down legacy facilities.

In the FCC’s 2015 Technology Transitions Order, the FCC defined “copper retirement” as the “removal or disabling of copper loops, subloops, or the feeder portion of such loops or subloops, or the replacement of such loops with fiber-to-the-home loops or fiber-to-the curb loops.”

However, the telco said that the current process might hold up the process of migrating what it calls “chronic” copper customers, or those that have had multiple service visits to resolve issues.

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“The 'de facto' concept should be removed because it introduces significant uncertainty to the copper retirement process,” Verizon said in a FCC filing (PDF).  “Among other practical problems, the vague de facto retirement concept could result in unmanageable loop-by-loop retirement requirements or complicate a provider’s ability to move customers to fiber when that is the best and most efficient way to resolve troubles they are experiencing with copper facilities.”

The telco claims the transition from copper to fiber in various instances has enabled it to reduce truck rolls to customer locations.

Between 2012 through 2016, Verizon made approximately 3.4 million fewer repair or trouble-shooting dispatches than would have been required had these customers remained on copper facilities.

Verizon said that regardless if the FCC Commission reworks the copper retirement definition “it should reiterate that there is no actual (or 'de facto') copper retirement when “a carrier migrates an individual customer from its copper to its fiber network to resolve service issues raised to the carrier by the customer.”

In Pennsylvania, the telco has come under fire for alleged de facto copper retirement from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union.

Earlier this month, Verizon and the CWA reached an agreement under which the telco will make a number of infrastructure upgrades to its copper infrastructure in Pennsylvania, following complaints that the telco was allegedly not performing necessary upkeep on the state's network.

This agreement follows a complaint the CWA made with the Pennsylvania PUC, providing what it said was documentation of Verizon’s copper network maintenance issues. Unsurprisingly, Verizon dismissed the CWA’s claims, saying that union’s claims are incorrect.

However, other service providers like Windstream disagree with Verizon’s thesis.

The service provider, which serves as both an ILEC and a CLEC, said the FCC should retain the expanded definition of copper retirement that considers two key elements: the feeder portion of copper loops and subloops, and de facto retirement that results from the failure to maintain copper facilities.

Windstream said in its FCC filing (PDF) that not being able to get access to these facilities make it challenging to provide Ethernet over Copper (EoC) services in areas where it can’t make an initial case to build fiber to buildings.

“As acknowledged by the Commission in the 2015 Technology Transitions Order, based on a substantial record, losing access to the feeder portion of copper loops and subloops makes it difficult for competitive providers to use the remaining facilities,” Windstream said. “In particular, where incumbent LECs replace copper feeder with fiber, competitive providers are unable to provide Ethernet over Copper service, which is an affordable and effective way to meet the data needs of small and medium-sized businesses.”

Additionally, Windstream pointed out that Verizon and other traditional ILECs should not be able to skirt the FCC’s copper retirement process to notify business and residential customers that could be affected.

“Incumbent LECs should not be permitted simply to abandon their copper networks without formally retiring them pursuant to the notice process established by the Commission,” Windstream said. “This notice is necessary to enable interconnecting carriers to transition end users without disruption.”