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June 03, 2015

For POTS, the End is Here (Or Just About)

We have had lots of people saying things like “Turn it off” about POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) in 2018.

We can make the case that Thursday, June 18, 2015, is the day when the FCC puts its hand on the switch.

The June Commission ‘open meeting’ is going to discuss three issues, all of which lead to POTS’ demise.

The first is the ability of VoIP service providers to gain access to the telephone number repository. When that happens, access points -- which have been part of the acquisition for VoIP providers -- will disappear and numbering will be finally extracted from the Plain Old Transmission Switches. Embedded in this decision will be the questions of how 911 calls are served, whether the LERG (Local Exchange Routing Guide) has a future and whether Local Number Portability is necessary.

Adding to this confusion will be the discussion about robocalls, which suggests that someone has to maintain a white list. As discussed in this column a few weeks ago, most robocalls are associated with VoIP numbers since the software to run them exists on servers. We can expect, then, that some sort of stick about this come before the carrots of numbers are delivered.

However, as usual, the government for political campaigns has already made themselves an exemption, so the stick will probably not be as strong as many would like.

Finally and probably more importantly, the Lifeline fund will be expanded to include access to the Internet rather than access to a phone. In theory, this will mean the “real” carriers will migrate their lifeline phones to lifeline Internet services and even use their own version (though hidden) of VoIP over broadband services.

The Open Meeting is scheduled to commence at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) in Room TW-C305 of the Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C.

It may not be as momentous as watching a hurricane, but this meeting’s wake is going to impact us all permanently.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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