Technology certainly has changed our lives. I remember family car trips in the 1960s when we had three kids fighting in the back seat while my father insisted that we make 350 miles between bathroom stops. Things have evolved to where you can be in the car but in your own separate world. On a recent 600-mile car trip my wife was listening to the Clash on her iPod, my daughter was cranking My Chemical Romance on her earphone player in the back seat, and I was listening to my Bears lose in overtime to the Vikings.
Along these lines, my lovely wife and I have been actively engaged in converting many of our favorite music tunes into MP3s so we can haul them around on our iPods. With the help of “Spin it Again™” software we can take LPs, 45s and cassettes and convert the music into digital files. During this process, I have rediscovered my fondness for the “thud rock” bands of the 1970s such as Grand Funk Railroad. Simple music played very loudly always makes me happy.
I realize that we are making these musical technology conversions for a simple reason: if we want to keep the songs, we have to reformat them because the day will come when you can’t buy a cassette player anymore. In fact, last year I bought the last cassette player at my local Best Buy.
On that recent car trip at a gas station stop, a newspaper headline grabbed my attention. On the front page of the November 30 Detroit News was the story, “Traditional phone lines may go away.” After grabbing the paper, I scanned the article. It seems that AT&T, who is the incumbent landline provider for the bulk of Michigan, is lobbying the state legislature to allow it to discontinue POTS service after providing the customer with a 90-day notice, which would be effective in three years. AT&T and other traditional telcos want to convert all POTS services to IP/VoIP, so they don’t have to support two different technologies.
What really grabbed my attention were the statistics cited in the article. Where there were 6.6 million POTS telephone lines in Michigan in 2000, now there are 2.6 million, with 1.4 million VoIP connections. You might ask what happened to the remainder of the POTS telephone lines that were active in 2000. That answer is simple; customers are rapidly going to wireless-only telephone service, with 9.3 million Michigan cell/smart phone connections in 2012 versus 3.5 million in 2000.
It is very important for security dealers to understand that this is not a single-state or carrier issue. The major landline carriers are throwing their substantial lobbying efforts towards getting individual state governments to allow the wholesale conversion from POTS to IP/VoIP across the country. If history is any predictor, the phone companies are usually able to railroad our government agencies into granting their requests.
This conversion from POTS to IP/VoIP will happen at the central office and in most cases end users won’t even be aware that the change has occurred. Nevertheless, the existing alarm communicator may not be able to transmit reliably over the new technology that is being provided by the telcos.
I have great concern for the millions of our industry’s customers whose standard digital communicators are currently connected to POTS telephone lines. Burglary, fire alarm, medical alerts, and all of the monitoring that we provide can and will be disconnected from the POTS lines, leaving our customers with no central station connections and most likely they won’t even know it until an alarm event occurs.
POTS is going to flat-line within the next three to five years all across our country. Will your customers’ digital communicators still be able to reach the central station when needed? Even though some of the incumbent telcos have implied that “old school” POTS-based communications will work over the new VoIP networks, how can they (and you, Mr./Ms. Alarm Dealer) be assured that communications will continue?
It is critical that security and fire alarm dealers with digital communicators in the field get ahead of this process and start the conversion from POTS/digital communicators to IP-based alarm signal transmissions, and get started now.
Just as the Engebretson house is converting older music into modern-age formats so we can keep on playing that rock & roll, security dealers must convert POTS alarm transmitters if they want to keep their customers.