A plain old telephone service may sound like a “hunky dory” piece of fiction, but after a remarkable 100-year run, we have met the sunset of analog services.
In August 2019, the FCC issued Order 19-72A1, which allows service providers in the United States the option to stop selling and maintaining copper telephone lines. According to the FCC, the number of U.S. POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines has declined from 122 million in 2010 to 41 million in 2019.
This retirement has brought a significant amount of confusion about what this means for the future of telecommunication services and what technologies will replace this outdated and expensive system. So, if you’re curious about POTS lines going away and options for POTS replacements, we are here to break it down for you.
Wait, what are POTS lines?
POTS is a service we use to communicate with each other back in the good old days and even still today. It is an analog voice transmission system, which is a complicated way of saying a system that conveys information using a continuous signal that varies in amplitude. It uses copper wires to provide power and connectivity to the telephone from the provider’s system–making the telephone powered independently from the customer’s main on-site power supply.
POTS line usage goes beyond a landline telephone in a household or business. These lines are also used for essential tools, like phones, elevators, fax machines, fire alarms, and more. For example, if an elevator fails, the telephone inside the lift will work regardless if there is power in the building or the presence of a cell phone signal. They are also used for fire and security alarms. So, if you are planning a heist anytime soon, you need to cut more than just the power line!
Why Exactly Did the FCC Place This Order?
In 1996, the Telecommunications Act was introduced to keep telecoms markets competitive and monopolistic phone companies at bay. Before the act, legacy phone companies, who hold all the copper, could charge other telecom operators whatever they wanted. Once the Act was passed, lines owned by legacy phone companies were regulated, and price caps were imposed.
However, the arrival of new technologies like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and fixed wireless decreased the demand for copper lines from legacy phone companies significantly. Fast-forward to 2019, the FCC made an order to lift the price cap, giving the legacy phone companies an upper hand. Other telecom operators renting the copper took this as a sign to cut their losses and leave the copper to the legacy companies. Now, customers who want to continue using POTS have a limited number of companies to choose from, most of whom are increasing their prices significantly.
Does this mean businesses’ telephone costs will jump significantly?
This order does not mean that POTS lines are going away to make a complete disappearance. However, legacy companies are going to be hiking rates for businesses. Most businesses are slowly starting to move away from POTS lines in favor of VoIP phones because its more cost-efficient, remote-friendly, and scalable. Some enterprises have seen POTS line prices increase double or triple in price compared to the price of VoIP phones.
However, emergency lines will need an alternative, such as cellular services. With the introduction of the 2010 edition of the National Fire Protection Association 72 rules, cellular technology became an alternative solution to POTS.
Planning for Transition: Alternatives for POTS
Now that you know what is a POTS line, it is time to take action. Before POTS line rates increase, it is crucial to map out the next steps for your devices that rely on copper wires. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives on the market that can best serve your business’s needs. Listed below are some common essential tools and POTS replacements to keep your communications running smoothly.
It is recommended that customers move to an online fax solution. The benefit of this change is that they can send a fax from virtually anywhere, on any device. Sticking with a cloud-based faxing solution avoids the never-ending cycle of paper-based workflow– spending too much time scanning, faxing, and filing.
In the U.S., you do not currently need a POTS line for elevators. The current-day elevator code requires all elevators to have a dedicated phone line, and a cellular elevator phone line meets this requirement. This transition works for new and existing elevators, making POTS replacements easier.
An option that provided a reliable backup communication method and increased transmission speed is a network/cellular communicator. This method uses two communication methods. The primary method is through your local internet connection, and the secondary connection is through cellular. This method also checks in with the monitoring center every few minutes, compared to the POTS line that sends a signal once every 24 hours.
As mentioned above, many businesses have begun to favor VoIP services. Aside from the fact that it requires a stable internet connection, it is an excellent way to bring your business together regardless of how your team is distributed. No copper wires, no telephone lines, or excessive hardware. POTS replacements are also great in terms of scalability. With POTS, it follows the model of “keep adding more”– once you purchase the equipment, you’re going to keep it. However, with a cloud-based system, you can easily add or remove users.
While POTS lines are going away and out the door, it has opened the door for more cost-efficient, remote-friendly, and scalable alternatives for businesses. Between phone systems, fax machines, and other essential tools that utilize POTS, switching to alternatives has become easier than ever. Is your business ready for this switch?