It should come as a shock to no one in the security industry that the days of plain old telephone service (POTS) and the public switched telephone network (PSTN) are numbered. With the emergence of Internet Protocol and Broadband services, it was only a matter of time before these antiquated technologies were thanked for their time and ushered off into the annals of obsolescence.

Well, when AT&T submitted comments regarding the issue to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last December, POTS and the PSTN got more than ushered. They got a great big shove in that direction.

Not surprisingly, the security industry reacted with cautionary words regarding the technologies’ fate and AT&T’s desire to expedite their simultaneous demises. After all, POTS and the PSTN have served as a bridge for electronic security systems since the 1970s. And while the industry’s dependence on them today is significantly less than what it once was, it would still face serious ramifications were POTS and the PSTN to be spontaneously mothballed.

In fact, the transition to Broadband has been going on for some time, Chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) Lou Fiore told SDM. Fiore doesn’t question that IP/Broadband is the way of the future for the alarm industry. And he said that the potential that it offers in the kind of data it can transmit is very exciting for the industry. But the conversion doesn’t come without reservations, depending mainly on how it is accomplished.

“It’s not the destination,” Fiore said. “It’s the journey that we’re concerned about.”

The concern is reliability and availability. The PSTN and POTS and the “five 9s” of reliability they offer provide the 24/7 capabilities that the alarm industry demands for transmitting emergency signals. While certainly capable of doing the same, Broadband – and more specifically, its providers – has to be able to meet that same demand.

“We’ve been talking to these people to make sure that they understand that we can’t take any downtime,” Fiore said. “We have to make sure that the cable companies just aren’t powering these things with AC out there; that they do have battery backup.

“Another issue is that they take down these systems for maintenance occasionally,” Fiore added. “They’ll upload new software. And we don’t know if it’s minutes or what fraction of an hour it happens. And they tend to do it in the middle of the night.”

It’s issues such as these that led Fiore and the AICC to submit its own comments to the FCC in response to AT&T’s commentary. While not in opposition to a transition away from POTS and the PSTN, the AICC is seeking to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place before the long-time technologies are put out to pasture. Because all that lies in the balance is the reliability of the alarm industry to transmit its emergency signals. That’s pretty important.

“I can see an amicable transition here where we continue to operate in the mode we’re working on and with the carriers giving us the reliability and the availability that we want,” Fiore said. “I don’t think we’re opposed to it at all. It’s just a question of making sure that the safety aspects of what (AT&T is) proposing are indeed public.”