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4 Reasons to Ditch Your POTS Service Before it Disappears

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I first recall hearing that the telecom carriers were setting timelines for decommissioning their copper infrastructure and no longer providing time-division multiplexing (TDM) services like plain old telephone service (POTS) lines, T1s, and primary rate interface (PRI) circuits in 2014. Back then, I didn’t pay too much attention to the roadmaps published by AT&T, and Verizon, because I knew they were too aggressive and that the carriers wouldn’t have full control of these timelines. They can set targets, but the phasing out of copper infrastructure has been more of an organic process driven by the carrier’s intentions, the pace of development of alternate services, customers’ willingness to transition off copper, and, of course, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules.
 
Fast forward eight years and this process has gathered enough momentum that anyone with POTS lines in their environment needs to pay attention. There’s no hard cut-off date, after which your POTS and other copper services will stop working; however, over time, these services will become more and more of a headache. Here are four reasons why.
  1. Costs Will Continue to Rise. When you compare a current bill for any copper-based service from any provider across the nation to one from six or 12 months ago, you’ll notice rate increases (often very significant increases) in any rates not locked in by a current contract. If you continue to pay attention to those rates over time, you’ll see them continue to rise at a fairly rapid pace. You cannot safely assume that you can renew a contract for services under an existing contract while keeping the current rates intact.
  2. Repair Time Frames Will Get Longer and Longer. As the copper plant ages, carriers have deprioritized care and maintenance of these assets. Carriers are also not storing sufficient materials to replace defective copper infrastructure, and as the labor force that maintains these assets ages out, they aren’t getting replaced. This dilemma is already resulting in longer lead times to have service issues repaired, and it can be especially difficult to get intermittent service issues addressed and resolved.
  3. You Won’t Be Able to Install New Copper Services. We have yet to see carriers follow through on their promises to turn off working copper services after a specific date, but we have discovered that they are no longer installing new copper services in some cases. This is especially true for T1s and higher-speed circuits that fiber-based Ethernet circuits can effectively replace. We haven’t had a request to install a new POTS service refused yet, but from experience, I assume it’s only a matter of time before this happens.
  4. Results Won’t Be the Same Everywhere. Increases in prices, degradation of service, and refusal to install new services, aren’t happening in a consistent manner. Different carriers are taking different approaches and even the same carriers are responding differently in different markets. AT&T forced one of our clients off T1 Internet circuits, setting the time frame to stop supporting the service in July 2021 and then “graciously” agreeing to continue support through April of 2022 to allow them to migrate off the circuits. At the same time, a colleague was offered a 36-month renewal contract on T1 Internet circuits from AT&T.

Deciding to dump your POTS now or at a later date will likely depend on several factors, including how much the raising costs and support difficulties impact your business and other priorities on which your team has their attention. Regardless of your anticipated timeline, I recommend doing some basic legwork to understand how many POTS lines you have in service, how much you are spending on them, and what business function(s) they support. Doing so will position you to quickly react if costs increase or service decreases to unacceptable levels.



Molly is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. SCTC consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.

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