POTS legislation imminent?

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08/04/2011

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.

Comments

My husband and I own a small security alarm installtion company in Atlanta,GA as a Monitronics dealer and while he is the technical side of this operation and I am the office administrator, I do read all of your articles and attempt to keep up to date with security news. I do not, however, understand the big fuss over POTS. We are pushing Honeywell Lynx Plus wtih Total Connect services for smart phones. While only 35% of consumers only have smart phones, most consumers with or without smart phones prefer the cellular back up in addition to a phone line if they even have a phone line, so what exactly is the big deal if POTS is phased out?