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by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Facebook connection of mine recently posted a link to a YouTube video that got me all fired up. The video details the developing story of Michael Allison, an Illinois man who, in an attempt to protect himself and his aged mother from what he considered police harrassment, recorded police he felt were abusing their power. Allison now faces 75 years in prison because he had the audacity to record police whom he felt were misbehaving on his property. These police weren't even in public... they were on his (or his mother's) property and because Allison recorded their voices without their consent on his cell phone during the exchange, they're hitting him with five counts--based on some archaic laws on the books in Illinois--of felonious eavesdropping. It's a class 1 felony in Illinois and literally equates Allison, if convicted, as a felon as bad as murderers and rapists... Really? The police have nothing better to do?

So when I watched the video I got pretty fired up, given that surveillance is something I write about an awful lot, most recently compiling a sourcebook article on surveillance and civil liberties, with a focus on Chicago. I spoke with people from the municipal side in Chicago who maintained public surveillance was a necessity as well as folks from the ACLU, who claimed civil liberties were being infringed upon by surveillance in public.

Police, of course, are allowed to videotape citizens at will.

Ken Kirschenbaum has, in his email newsletter, delt in past with liability issues relating to surveillance, especially audio.

They Huffington Post has an interesting look at the Allison case as well, as does a site called Death & Taxes, which points out that the Allison case is pressing ahead "just days after the 1st District Court of Appeals upheld the right to record police actions in public in Glik v. Cunniffe."

I put out emails to the Chicago chapter of the ACLU as well as to some former police with whom I'm acquainted to see if anyone had any input. I've heard nothing back from the ALCU, but former police officer and Illinois Electronic Security Association president Chet Donati (DMC Security) got back to me with some input. He seemed a little surprised by what's going on in the Allison case.

"If what this guy asserts is true," Chet told me, "it seems like they're taking the law to an expensive and unnecessary extreme."

Chet has spoken with SSN a lot lately, for stories about his trials and tribulations with former IESA executive director Marsha Kopan as well as in regards to the association's ongoing battles with local fire districts.

This is certainly an interesting and messed up story. I'd love to get your opinion. Do you think citizens should have the right to record police in public or in private? Do you think Michael Allison needs to be put away in federal prison with rapists, murderers and thieves for the remainder of his life because he had the gall to record police pushing him and his mother aroundwithout their permission? Are anti-eavesdropping laws archaic? Or are they defensible?

Let me know your thoughts.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, September 12, 2011

Avid readers of this blog will recall when SSN associate publisher Gregg Shapiro and I went on an adventure down to Texas last year. It was a blast and we met with a lot of security folks! I got a lot of copy out of that trip and learned a lot as well. Part of what we were traveling down there for was a dealer fishing trip put on by NMC. This year, Gregg and I had another adventure driving from the airport to our hotel in Charlotte, N.C. for ESX. Me, Gregg and his haughty English sounding GPS device cruisin' the streets of Charlotte. Awesome.

Just recently, Gregg again traveled down to Texas and checked out a cool event UCC was having for its dealers, a dove hunt. Now, unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but Gregg did manage to capture some pretty awesome video of UCC president Teresa Gonzalez and a number of other UCC employees rockin' the house with a UCC-themed rewrite of John Mellencamp's R-O-C-K in the USA.

Here're some of the specifics: It was the 8th Annual UCC Dove Hunt Extravaganza during which UCC hosted over 150 folks, representing about 80+ dealers from across the country from Pennsylvania to California. The program began with tours of UCC’s San Antonio center on Thursday, September 8. A dinner sponsored by DSC and SGI was hosted that evening at the Alsace Hotel & Spa in Castroville, Texas and the hunt then took place at the Nooner Ranch in Hondo, Texas on Friday, followed by a bbq dinner and music. Including the special performance by Team UCC.

I've written about security videos before. I always like seeing bits of footage caught or created by the security peeps about whom I write.

Rock on UCC!

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So I got this news from ESA and CSAA the other day. Apparently ESX, which touts itself as the only trade show owned by the industry and existing for the benefit of the industry, has raised north of $1 million for the associations since the show's inception in 2008. That's pretty cool news, given the state of the economy over the last several years.

ESA and CSAA have funneled all that money back into the industry in the form of funding for more education and more legislative initiatives, and public relations to benefit integration and monitoring companies.

ESA president Dom D'Ascoli was clearly pleased with the milestone. From the relase:

In addition to providing invaluable education, networking and vendor contact for our member companies, ESX is an important source of funding for ESA. The event has generated substantial funds for ESA during a time of general economic headwinds and has helped the association expand and improve its services.

CSAA prez Ed Bonifas also chimed in on the accomplishment.

CSAA is thrilled to be an owner and sponsor of ESX, and is proud of all that it does for the industry. Its profitability for the associations in every year since its launch is a testament to the event’s quality and structure.

I spoke with Ed just the other day about the current state of the ASAP-to-the-PSAP program and how the automated data transfer protocol faired during the natural disasters--the rare East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene.

John Galante, president of AE Ventures, producer of the ESX show was also excited by the news and hopeful of what it meant for the future.

AE Ventures is proud to produce an event that helps fuel industry growth through the programs of CSAA and ESA. All parties are committed to producing a growing, high quality event and making sure the industry is the principal beneficiary of its success.

ESX will be return to its roots in Nashville, Tenn for the next two installments.

 

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I wrote a while back about AT&T's bid to purchase T-Mobile. I wanted to look whether or not having such a large provider as the only choice for a GSM carrier would be damaging to the security industry. Whether or not it might prompt others to throw their hat in the ring as wireless service providers to the industry.

I, and others, argued that it might be dangerous from a service and pricing perspective to have one giant wireless provider being the only place security folks could go for their GSM needs.

I picked up this story today from the New York Times. Apparently the US Justice Department is suing to block the acquisition, claiming "The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for their mobile wireless services." That last quote was from James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general. The Justice Department’s complaint was filed in United States District Court in Washington on Aug. 31.

Of course, their looking to block the acquisition with an eye on the end user. However, it stands to reason that the same negatives listed above would plague security folks looking to leverage GSM technology in security solutions, doesn't it?

AT&T has vowed to "vigoriously contest" the matter in court.

The Times story points out AT&T has some pretty strong reasons to want the deal to go through:

AT&T has one powerful incentive to try to salvage the deal. Under the terms of the agreement that AT&T signed with Deutsche Telekom, AT&T would pay a breakup fee of $3 billion in cash, as well as a roaming agreement and spectrum rights — an estimated total value of $6 billion — if the acquisition did not go through for regulatory reasons.

Other wireless providers, such as Sprint, which entered the security industry as a partner with Cernium this summer, have voiced opposition to the merger.

“Sprint urges the United States government to block this anticompetitive acquisition,” Vonya McCann, Sprint’s senior vice president for government affairs, said back in March. “This transaction will harm consumers and harm competition at a time when this country can least afford it.”

The Times story notes shares of AT&T dropped nearly 4 percent on the news of DOJ's suit, to less than $29. Shares of Deutsche Telekom, the parent of T-Mobile, fell 5 percent in trading in Frankfurt. Shares of Sprint Nextel were up nearly 6 percent, according to the Times.

It will be interesting to see how the deal--or if the deal--goes down.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, August 25, 2011

So I blogged last week about Detroit's decision--effective Monday, Aug. 22--to no longer respond to unverified alarms. I wrote a story last year about the city working cooperatively and successfully with SIAC to enact an ECV policy, an outcome the guys at SIAC called a victory given that the alternative was a much more severe verified response policy.

Well, less than a year later here we are stifling that sigh of relief as Detroit goes ahead and enacts the tougher of the two options.

What's the difference you might ask between ECV and VR?

Both aim to reduce needless police dispatch by requiring the alarm company to take certain actions before calling the police to dispatch to the alarmed premise. However, ECV doesn't require visual (either in person or via video) or auditory proof of a  break in or crime in progress. It only requires more than one call to multiple numbers be made to ascertain if the alarm activation was accidental or not. Verified response is something I've written about numerous times, covering companies like Cernium, RSI, Sonitrol, and Provident.

Since I wrote that blog about Detroit's move to a more strict policy, I've reached out to and heard back from SIAC, have picked up some chatter about the policy change on the ACCENT Listsrv and have left voice mails with the Detroit PD.

Here's what some are saying on ACCENT:

From Mike Riley (csguru@wideopenwest.com):

All,

In case you had not heard Detroit has instituted a new policy for burg disp.

Details attached (If Accent will allow a pdf attachment) however in short Detroit will only respond as follows:

1) Someone has confirmed from the premise that the PD are required

2) Remote video or audio verification that PD are required

3) Multiple Alarm Trips

A) 1 Perimeter AND 1 interior alarm activation,

B) 3 or more interior trips.

If either of these are cause for a dispatch an email with alarm activity is supposed to be sent to a specific address @ DPD. "Upon receipt of a verified alarm, the EC shall immediately enter the information into the CAD system for police response."

If the attachment doesn’t work and you would like a copy email me and I will send it.

I've got that letter from the DPD to alarm companies right here. It explains their policy and gives you a contact at the DPD for further questions. His name's Commander Todd Bettison. I've spoken with him before. He's a good guy who's willing to talk. Shoot him an email or give him a call at 313-596-5402.

Jeff Smith (jsmith@midstatesecurity.com) had the following to say about changes in Detroit:

You also can get updated information as it happens at: http://bfaam.org/

The Burglar and Fire Alarm Association of Michigan as well as SIAC is actively working on this and hopefully either repeal it or have the policy at least rethought. It creates a public safety issue with alarm owners having to respond to their own alarms. There is of course the guard response possibility, but getting people to pay for that or even put in cameras to verify that there is a crime is an expensive endeavor for most.

I can affirm that SIAC is still at work in Detroit since executive director Stan Martin got back to my inquiry right away:

Dan, Yes we're still working Detroit. But it is a very tough situation. Right now they are enforcing the policy change and I do believe they are putting citizens at unnecessary risk by not allowing a longer period of transition. We've appealed to the mayor to work with us, restore response and let us bring to fruition a plan we set in place over a year ago... that includes an ordinance that would provide $2million plus in revenue to the city while continuing to reduce alarm dispatches. We're confident that we can achieve 60-80% in those dispatches, targeting the chronic abusers and not the 80% of the systems that have one or less dispatches per year.

We recognize Detroit has serious issues and want to work with them. There are no plans for any alarm industry coordinated efforts to throw gasoline on this volatile situation by stirring up the alarm customers. Every alarm company has an ethical if not contractual duty to notify their customers of this change and give them options. SIAC does not recommend inflammatory rhetoric be included in that communication, only the facts and options.

Sounds like good advice: cooperation is always best.

Back over to ACCENT. Bob Dolph expresses concern about having alarm company employees or end users showing up to verify alarms.

Is the public aware that the PD is requiring that a civilian stay on location once they have reported the crime?  Sound very dangerous to me.

Having alarm company personnel respond to the facility is crazy. I remember a similar requirement in Milwaukee many years ago. The alarm company did not hold a key most of the time, but still had to show up. Police would ask why I was there and I said because you said I had to be. They would ask me to open up the premises and I would simply say I do not have a key. There were several times that I accidentally walked in to a police shotgun. What are they thinking?

As we all know there are model ordinances that can reduce false alarms. Maybe some day they will listen to the security professionals. NOT!!

In my early years in the industry we had a police department complain about false alarms. In a meeting with them I simply asked, If all alarms systems were turned off and you had to have a police officer on every street corner, how many extra personnel do you think you would have to hire? Sometimes they have to remember the overall public service alarm systems provide.

Bob

I've written about this before. Having end users respond to alarms is ludicrous. I interviewed Mike Jagger last year for a market trends piece I did on alarm verification.

Sending a client to investigate their own alarm is both dangerous and stupid. Sending the Police to respond to every alarm is both stupid and a colossal waste of taxpayers' money. Nevertheless, thousands of times a day, alarm companies do both. This isn't a two option only situation. There are many ways to provide safe and efficient verification, either using properly trained guards providing immediate response or using technology. Either option works. At some stage, alarm companies need to take responsibility for the service that is being provided and acknowledge that professional response, or at least technical verification, is an essential part of providing a real service. Sending a client into a potentially dangerous situation is half-assed. Collecting money for it is worse. Using it as an example as to why Police departments should fund our service delivery model is criminal.

Strong words? Maybe, but aren't they (at least a little) true? Mike also spoke with SSN editor Martha at ISC West last year and explained that proactive verification and could be a real opportunity to increase positive contact with end users on a regular basis. Regardless of how you view it, change is coming.

I'll update or add a new post when and if I hear back from the DPD.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I saw a release online the other day from Envysion. They were touting some impressive growth they've seen in the first half of 2011.

I've spoken with Envysion's vice president of product and marketing Carlos Perez on the phone a number of times as well as in person at trade shows. He's a good guy with a passion for what he does.

Of the growth Envysion has seen this year, Carlos told me he thought it boded well, not just for his company, but for the whole managed services ecosystem:

We’re proud of our success in the first half of 2011. We believe our tremendous growth is not only reflective of differentiated power and value of Envysion’s MVaaS solution but also signals an accelerating pace of adoption for managed solutions overall and is recognition of the impact managed solutions can deliver.  We have believed all along that Managed Video as a Service will be a disruptive force and will change the way customers use and think about video.   MVaaS puts easy-to-use, video based business intelligence into the hands of an entire organization so they can make profit impacting changes in their day-to-day jobs and breaks the legacy model of only using video reactively when incidents occur.  Over the last six months we’ve seen increasing evidence of this market disruption, particularly as large enterprises continue to chose our MVaaS solution over traditional video products.  

When last I spoke with Carlos, he was telling me all about the Managed Video Summit they do. They had their second outing with that in June, just prior to ESX.

The third installment is planned for next year.

The release I saw online runs with the headline: "Envysion Reports Exceptional 1st Half of 2011 Delivering 70% Growth in Recurring Revenue." I thought that sounded pretty impressive. From the Envysion release:

“2011 has already been a phenomenal year for Envysion, having signed large deals with Cinemark, By the Rockies and several other new customers. We now have the largest MVaaS deployments in the restaurant, retail and cinema segments, further demonstrating the broad applicability of our MVaaS solutions and the tremendous impact we deliver for our customers. We are excited to continue this growth and further expand the MVaaS market,” says Matt Steinfort, president and CEO of Envysion. “During the first six months of the year we also witnessed incredible market validation, both for the industry and specifically for Envysion with the success of our second annual Managed Video Summit, partnerships with major industry players and recognition from industry awards.”

The release then goes on to list some of the restaurant, cinema and retail clients it has picked up in the last year:

In the first half of 2011, Envysion continued to realize strong growth in the restaurant segment, while also rapidly expanding into the cinema and retail segments. The company’s exceptional growth is highlighted by several large new customers, including:

* Industry leading big box retailer selected Envysion and will immediately begin an enterprise-wide deployment of the Envysion Insight solution to more than 1,200 retail locations

* By the Rockies, LLC, the second largest franchisee of Carl’s Jr.   and Hardee’s, selected the Envysion Insight solution for all 100+ of its locations

* Cinemark USA selected Envysion as its MVaaS provider and began initial rollout

* Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., operator of 120 restaurants under the Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation brands, selected Envysion Insight as its exclusive video solution

* Wireless City, a Premium Retailer for Verizon Wireless selected Envysion as its exclusive video provider for all locations

* Wireless Express, one of the largest Preferred Retail partners of Sprint with 50+ retail locations, selected Envysion for a complete enterprise rollout

It certainly looks like Envysion is growing, adding prominent end user clients.

I also wrote a while back about Envysion's Insight Marketplace.

The release mentions a partnership with Sony that came out of the second annual summit, as well.

it's probably a good sign for folks in the video monitoring segment that more and more businesses are seeing the value in live video monitoring as opposed to video documentation via a DVR. I've written in the past about the difference between video verification services and true video monitoring companies.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, August 18, 2011

I picked up on a news story the other day from The Detroit Free Press about the city's new policy--effective Monday, Aug. 22--of no longer responding to alarms that aren't verified by the alarm system owner or the monitoring company.

Of course, verification is something I've written a lot about, covering stories from companies like RSI Video Technologies (avid readers know that I field a lot of calls from RSI's Keith Jentoft), Sonitrol, and Provident Security that have a strong verification aspect to their business model. In fact, shortly after seeing the Detroit Free Press story, I picked up a tweet from Provident's main man Mike Jagger. I've talked with Mike about his company's business model of private response to all alarms for verification purpose before. Mike said in his tweet he thinks that all municipalities should stop responding to unverified alarms.

I wrote about Detroit going to an ECV policy late last year. That policy was drafted with help from SIAC. ECV requires a second phone call to a different number to help determine if an emergency exists. This new change in policy is what SIAC had hoped to avoid last year. The new verified response policy states that the DPD will no longer respond to an alarm unless it is verified by the alarm company by private response or by technological means (video or audio) that there is actually a crime in progress.

From the Free Press story:

'We at the police department are working hard to serve the citizens; however, nowadays we have to rely more on technology to help solve our problems because we're not getting any more resources,' said Detroit Police Cmdr. Todd Bettison.

'Our main goal is to respond to crime, and if we can utilize modern technology, then so much the better. We feel very passionate about this,' Bettison said. 'We've been looking at this for a long time and from what we've observed this is definitely the way to go. Verified response will take us to the next level.'

Citing a U. S. Department of Justice report, a department press release said verified response is a reliable practice toward eliminating waste and improving police service. Since 1991, approximately 30 police departments in the U.S. and Canada have adopted the policy, including Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., and Fremont, Calif.

Godbee said verified response will result in significant time savings for police, allowing more time for preventive policing activities while freeing officers to respond to higher priority calls.

Video Security Monitoring of Oak Park is among a handful of local companies that already offer video verification. The company issued a news release Monday touting its service.

Sounds like strong advocacy for video and audio (or private guard) verification of alarms.

I've got emails out to the guys over at SIAC to see what the word is there.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So I picked up this somewhat interesting article via SIA's Daily Update email (which is pretty cool--you can sign up for your edition here). They picked up a story from a local Allentown, Pa. paper, The Morning Call. That paper was carrying a story on municipal video surveillance, which is something I've written about before.

I'm interested in video, surveillance, analytics, biometrics, access control--oh and robots and flying cars--and all that other stuff that brings us closer to a sci-fi-ish future.

According to the story, the city had leveraged government money to put up 97 municipal "blue light cameras," so named for their adjoined, flashing blue, cruiser-like lights to watch city streets. However, that money is now drying up and the city is turning to the private sector--area businesses to chip in and cover the cost of adding more.

A little surprisingly to me, some businesses are down with the expense and are ponying up.

"Capital Blue Cross became the first company to chip in, paying the city $16,670 to install a blue-light camera at Hamilton and Jefferson streets, across from its 1221 Hamilton St. offices, near its employee parking lot," the story reads.

That's pretty cool. Here's a business that understands the value in municipal monitoring and is working with the city for the benefit of its own employees as well as law enforcement and the general citizenry.

I did an extensive piece on municipal video surveillance in our 2011 Video Surveillance Sourcebook. Specifically, I looked at privacy concerns and whether or not a proliferation of municipal cameras could stave off crime. Some have said no, but the statistics from Allentown seem to say otherwise.

The cameras have reduced crime in areas where they have been installed, mostly by pushing it into un-monitored areas, said Assistant Police Chief Daniel Warg. For example, a chronic drug market at the corner of Sixth and Turner streets evaporated when the city installed a camera there, he said.

There's no way to prove the cameras prevent violent crime, but in 2010, the city recorded nine murders, the lowest number since 2002 and less than half the record 21 killings that took place in 2007, the year Allentown installed its first surveillance cameras.

Let's hope more communities start this kind of privately funded municipal program. Seems to me it would mean improved industry/municipality relations, businesses more invested in their communities, safer streets for citizens and probably increased work for local integrators and monitoring companies.

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yeah, I wish... Unfortunately, it's not in the budget. Of course my headline alludes to the upcoming CSAA Annual meeting. I've heard all about them and read all about them and, of course, written about them, but I've not had the opportunity to go yet. (If anyone has room in their luggage, I'm not a large man... I'd probably fit in a carry-on ;-))

I spoke last year with Keith Jentoft from RSI Video Technologies. He told me at the time, that last year's move back to the states (last year was in the Greater Tucson area—a real favorite of mine) after being in Greece the year before, was an effort on CSAA's part to be sensitive to its mostly financially strapped (given the economic climate) constituents. Keith said he thought the cost issue wasn't really all that relevant, though.

“I think the CSAA is doing its level best to be responsive to its members—and carry out their mission. In these economic times ‘perception’ often is reality, whether or not it is true. I don’t really think the cost difference between exotic/local is as significant as people think. It is more perception,” Keith told me last year. “I think that alternating between something more exotic and something less exotic is a good compromise and will be effective in today's environment. I think that the fact that the CSAA is willing to adjust and make changes based upon input from their members demonstrates that Ed Bonifas and the board really do want to serve their members and listen to what they say.”

I also spoke with Keith the year before in '09 when the Annual Meeting was in Greece. He really hit the importance of the meeting (and I've heard this from a few different people over the years...)

"What’s cool about this is that you get all the AHJs in one place ... The most important people there are the AHJs. you’ve got the president APCO—the 911 people. etc., you can just ride the bus with these guys. if you’re an integrator, you can get your views heard," Keith told me on location from Greece in '09.

Anyway, the whole reason I bring this up is that the most recent edition of CSAA's Signals wants you all to know that early bird pricing for the Venice trip is due to expire next Friday, Aug. 19. Early bird registration secures $150 savings per person off the regular rate.

Here's some of what you can expect at the Annual Meeting, should it be in your budget to go:

Early bird registration deadline: Friday, Aug. 19, 2011

Registration deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Special tours registration deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Hotel reservation/cancellation deadline: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

Airport transportation form deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

2011 CSAA Annual Meeting: Oct. 14-19, 2011

The keynote address is being given by FST21 founder Israeli general Aharon Zeevi Farkash. I've met the General a few times and interviewed him at this past year's ISC West. That promises to be a good talk. FST21's been seeing a lot of press lately, too.

In addition to his talk, CSAA will also offer the following educational sessions at its Annual Meeting:

* An AHJ president’s open forum.

* The current state of acquisitions and mergers.

* Alarm communications technologies.

* A nationwide public safety broadband wireless network.

* The ASAP to PSAP program.

* An update on PERS’ initiatives.

* Cloud computing: security as a service.

* Residential technologies of tomorrow.

For more information on the annual meeting head to CSAA's site, or call John McDonald, CSAA Vice President of Meetings, at 703-242-4670, ext. 17.

 

 

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, August 4, 2011

So I was reading through my email the other day and I came across the most current edition of Ken Kirschenbaum's e-newsletter on the security industry.

One reader of Ken's asked about POTS and legislation regarding the imminent demise of the communications pathway with which the industry has grown up.

Ken put the question out there and asked if anyone could offer some help.

Now POTS lines, communications pathway alternatives and the FCC's actions with POTS and other communications mediums are topics about which I've written a lot.

I have a call out to my contact at the FCC as well as to a friend with the AICC to see if there is anything current to report on the FCC's developing Broadband Plan as well as any legislation out there currently.

Here's the question posed to Ken in its entirety:

Hello Ken,

We are about to embark on a new marketing campaign to "cut the cord" and I wanted to know what legislation is currently out there on landlines. I know there has been some talk about landlines coming to an end within the next decade or so, but I was wondering if there was anything more specific-maybe at a state level. I am having trouble finding information on line and was told by Amy that you are the expert in the field. Could you maybe point me in the right direction on where to search?

Thanks for your time. I greatly appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

Last time I talked with FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield in the beginning of 2010 he told me there was going to be a big job of work getting any sort of solid plan ready for implementation.

"There was a requirement in the stimulus bill that the FCC develop a national broadband plan for congress within a year. The purpose of the plan is to look at how to make broadband more universal and more affordable and address a number of national purposes, including national security, public safety, homeland security and education—a whole laundry list of things. So we’ve been gathering a lot of data. There were 28 public notices, directly relevant to broadband," Mark told me last year. "The broadband plan is supposed to be delivered to congress by Feb. 17 and it’ll have a lot of recommendations on rulemaking that the commission should move forward on. I can’t say right now what the recommendation would be, but this public notice certainly asks for a lot of data."

While I was putting this post together I heard back from Mark over at the FCC. He said he didn't think there was anything going on right now.

"I think certainly there's a recognition that networks are evolving to more IP-based networks, but I don't think there is any sort of proceedings to shut down the PSTN. AT&T has filed a petition talking about that and it's out for comment," Mark told me. "Certainly, we're focused on incentives for IP networks in terms of how the current regulatory structures may incentivize people who might want to keep older networks rather than make networks that are more advanced, IP-based networks ... But there's nothing else to really report, other than AT&T's petition."

AT&T's petition can be found here.

At that time, when rumblings of a possible POTS sunset began to surface, I also talked with Vector Security's Rick Simpson. He was pretty insistent that even if POTS went away today the tech exists to make the transition.

"If you called me up today and said, ‘Listen I don’t have any landline phones in my house. I have an alarm system and I have a network connection. Can you monitor me?’ I’d say ‘Yeah, we can.’ Honeywell, Bosch, DMP a couple others out there today have devices that allow us to take that information and transmit it back to the central station,” Rick told me at the time. “This is not a major issue … There’s enough technology out there available to us to be able to connect and monitor any system out there.”

I also have a call out to Lou Fiore at the AICC, from whom I waiting to hear back now.

On the same topic, I also picked up a LinkedIn discussion started by IPAlarm's Steve Nutt in the Alarm Monitoring Group. I've talked with Steve before about telcos, the PSTN and alternative communications pathways like VoIP, GSM and broadband.

He shared a story and topical question:

How not to handle migration away from PSTN

I was recently contacted by an alarm monitoring company in Bulgaria who had switched all the lines within their own premises from PSTN to VoIP. The majority of their systems stopped functioning correctly and they were getting all sorts of communication errors.

Bulgaria has the highest level of software piracy in Europe and it was quite funny how they contacted me with the expectation that I would immediately send them everything we had ever developed without pausing for a moment to discuss the simple matter of cost.

Anyhoo, it reminded me of a misconception (one of many) that I had stored in my head about the demise of PSTN. I had only ever thought about what would happen when customers no longer had the option of a landline, when in fact the situation could arise where a monitoring company no longer had the option either.

I have no idea if this is what happened to the monitoring company in Bulgaria as our communication ended very abruptly, but I can't help wondering how many other monitoring company owners worldwide have contemplated this happening to them.

I am working with a company in the Caribbean and the owner told me it's not possible for anyone to order a new installation of a PSTN line any more. I'm not sure how many countries would have a similar situation right now, but you'd have to guess that the number might increase rapidly over the next five years.

What is the situation with PSTN in your country?

Security industry consultant and CTO at Systems Support Specialists Mark Fischer responded:

Here in the U.S. the problem on the central station side is that the communications carriers are using VoIP as part of their network "upgrades." So the central station my be served by PSTN or T1 connections, and the subscriber may have plain POTS, but all of sudden systems stop communicating form certain areas, because backbones from an area are being routed over a VoIP connection by a carrier in the routing chain.

What I find amazing is the number of installing alarm companies that are in denial about the problem, they believe that because they made a format change or are able to get a few test signals through that they have provided reliable communications. What they do not understand is how VoIP really works and how it is treated on the Networks, the difference between tier1, facility based solutions and secondary level providers, and the effects of network load. Not to mention backup power issues both on site and off.

The fact is that VoIP is the going to be the future of land line telecommunications for the foreseeable future. Central Stations and installing companies need to provide migration paths for their subs to ensure reliability of monitoring services.

There are lots more comments that I won't get into here.

Interesting conversation. I'll update this post and tweet should I hear back from Lou from the AICC side.

Let me know what you've heard in your municipalities re: POTS or PSTN legislation.

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