Ending POTS and ISDN

Jake’s Take on the end of POTS and ISDN as we know it…

Are you a doomsday planner? Do you have your bunker ready for the end of the world? Did you install a POTS line into that bunker thinking it would last forever as the technology has been proven and tested to work time and time again for centuries…? Have you heard about the FCC 19-72A1 order? Well, in this month’s Jake’s Take, we are going to talk about the end of POTS as you’ve known it for over a century in the US market. As of August 2, 2022, things will change… let’s discuss.

The Historical Perspective

First the background… back in 1996 Congress passed the Telecommunications Act. This act set up what is known as a “Market-Opening Provision” that forced competition in the marketplace by requiring telecommunications to unbundle specific services (UNEs – Unbundled Network Elements). One of these UNEs that the government set up to prompt competition in the marketplace is analog loops using copper lines. These analog loops can be used to configure Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) voice services known as POTS. Another part of this act has an “Avoided-cost resale” obligation that limits the resale rate at which these large network suppliers can resell their services to other network providers. Again, all of this is about large telecommunications reselling to lower-end telecommunications companies that want to resell services. When Congress passed this law, they granted the FCC responsibility for determining if these sections of the 1996 act should be enforced. In 2018 discussions started about terminating the enforcement of these two sections from the 1996 act, and in 2019, the FCC agreed and created Order 19-72A1. Overturning this FCC ruling allows for telecommunications companies to be more competitive with IP-based systems instead of having to focus some of their efforts on maintaining old legacy systems, according to USTelecom (The Broadband Association in the US).

Broadcast Implications

What does this mean for me, you ask? Well, I have a few questions to ask you first…

  • Do you currently have any Analog Plain Old Telephone Circuits in your building?
  • Is your phone system still using copper Lines?
  • Do you still use a POTS codec?
  • What about a POTS Hybrid for studio listeners?
  • Do you still have an Alarm or Fax line that uses a copper line for communications?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then this ruling will most likely affect you. This ruling simply allows US Telecoms to decide what to do next with their services related to TDM systems. This could mean that after a certain point your Telco may just come by your office and cut your lines, or US Telecoms could raise your service bill costs, or they may just keep the plan as is. This ruling just provides more uncertainty with POTS communications in the United States and forces IT, and System Administrators to plan for the future with the use of IP-Services like IP networking, VoIP, and Audio over WAN Connections, etc. There are equivalent systems that work just as well over IP-based systems as they did over TDM systems. If you haven’t started making plans to switch, or didn’t know about this cut-off as some providers may just raise the rates, then I would suggest starting to plan for upgrades in your studio for IP-based systems.

From Adversity Comes Opportunity

You might be thinking that the government may be out to make business harder, or those telecommunications companies don’t care. Well, I won’t comment on those, but I will state that this does provide a unique opportunity for radio companies that are using Analog Loops in just about any configuration. Stations will not only get a more modern system, but they will be able to take advantage of better audio quality and flexibility, more reliable connectivity, easier access, and lower costs compared to legacy TDM systems. For example, Tieline products used for remote broadcasts have offered IP for the several generations dating back to the early 2000s. Over each generation, we have made several improvements and functional enhancements that make IP connectivity more reliable than the previous generations, just as the history of POTS in broadcast remotes started as a POTS hybrid, then a POTS frequency shifter/extender, and finally the digital POTS codecs.

Tieline's Gateway codec: ending POTS and ISDN reliance
Tieline’s Gateway codec supports up to 16 bidirectional mono IP connections to replace POTS hybrids and other POTS or ISDN connections

To recap, the FCC ruling discussion is forcing businesses around the US to upgrade away from TDM. It allows telecommunication companies to discontinue services or significantly raise the rates in some areas. It does prompt friendly and healthy competition with IP-based systems, which will help improve internet speeds throughout the entire country in the long term. Upgrading your old POTS equipment isn’t the end of the world, but it is time to make the decision to upgrade or take a chance with a higher bill. We have seen this before with ISDN, and now the sunset of POTS is upon us. Just be sure to mark your calendar that August 2, 2022, is the date the FCC has confirmed that IP-systems should be the new generation network of focus.

For more information about the FCC Ruling, visit https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-19-72A1.pdf

For more information on Gateway and other Tieline codecs visit www.tieline.com/products or contact Tieline sales:

(Ending POTS and ISDN, first published on 10th May, 2022)

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