The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tightly regulated the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), also known as analog copper-wire phone lines or plain old telephone service (POTS), through the 1990’s. Now, in a 2019 order effective August 2022, the FCC has lifted its oversight of the PSTN and no longer sees any reason to require Carriers to continue POTS service.
Consequently, three things are happening simultaneously:
POTS lines are going away. FCC data shows the number of POTS lines in the United States plummeted from 122 million in 2010 to 41 million in 2019. If copper-wire lines continue to be shut down at the current rate, there will be few, or none left by 2026
POTS lines are becoming more expensive. The FCC and state regulators have removed price caps on POTS lines and Carriers are taking advantage of this to significantly increase rates. The average business POTS line now costs between $80 and $120 per month, with some paying more than $225 per month.
Quality of service for POTS lines is declining. Free of regulation, some carriers are simply maximizing opportunity with a captive audience by providing less service to their POTS networks. The California Public Utility Commission in an April 2019 report found multiple instances of neglect by AT&T, the state’s primary provider of POTS lines.
The eventual demise of the copper line infrastructure impacts numerous industry segments where mandated critical systems are in place. Businesses and building owners should take action to ensure systems such as fire alarms, elevator and other safety phones remain in compliance.