ESA and Others React to AT&T’s Push to end POTS, PSTN

The Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) — whose membership comprises representatives from the Electronic Security Association (ESA), the Central Station Alarm Association, the Security Industry Association and several national companies — last week submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission in response to AT&T’s recent filing concerning the transition from the circuit-switched network to broadband and IP-based communications.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress directed the FCC to create a national broadband plan by March 17 that seeks to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband capability. As part of its plan development, the FCC, in December, sought comments on the transition to an all-IP network, in its attempt to determine whether or not new policy should be considered and what relevant questions should be raised on how best to monitor and plan for such a transition. Read the FCC public notice.
On Dec. 21, 2009, AT&T filed a comment with the FCC that, among other things, explicitly called for the phasing out of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). In its filing, AT&T stated that, “Due to technological advances, changes in consumer preference, and market forces, the question is when, not if, POTS service and the PSTN over which it is provided will become obsolete. In the meantime, however, the high costs associated with the maintenance and operation of the legacy network are diverting valuable resources, both public and private, that could be used to expand broadband access and to improve the quality of broadband service.
“It is for that reason that one of the most important steps the Commission can take to facilitate an orderly transition to an all-broadband communications infrastructure is to eliminate the regulatory requirements that prolong the life of POTS and the PSTN,” AT&T’s filing added. Read AT&T’s comments.
Today, approximately one-third of Americans live in, work in and go to premises where security systems are used, ESA reported. And many of those security applications rely upon the PSTN for transmission of alarm instances. Therefore, the AICC in its filing called on the FCC to consider a plan of orderly transition to broadband and IP-based communications — one that ensures communications services to all Americans will operate with a high degree of reliability and compatibility with existing life safety services and equipment. Read the comments from AICC. 
ESA supports broadband development and IP-based communications, as these developments carry great potential in connection with alarm services, including faster data transmission, in greater amounts, from a protected premise to the monitoring station, the association said in a press release. However, the ability of the alarm industry to rely on broadband and IP-based communications will be hindered if all aspects of the communications path are not reliable.
In the release, ESA added that it and other industry groups support a gradual transition to broadband and IP-based communications to ensure compatibility with existing services and equipment. As the FCC works on the broadband plan, ESA, through its involvement in the AICC, will continue to monitor, participate in and report back on the development and impact of the plan.