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AT&T Again Requests FCC Support of Transition away from Traditional Phone Lines

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December 9, 2013
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AT&T Again Requests FCC Support of Transition away from Traditional Phone Lines

There areseveral important aspects of FrontPoint’s business model that separate us from the rest of the alarm industry, and we’ve covered them all in these blog posts. But a recent news article reminded me of one very important point of differentiation that is at the core of how we provide peace of mind – and that’s the fact that FrontPoint is the only nationwide alarm company to use safer cellular monitoring in every system we have ever sold.

How Alarm Systems Communicate

Going back to the 1970’s, the main method of alarm system communication to the monitoring center was that “hard copper” phone line that existed in almost every home in America. In fact, it was referred to as a “POTS” line – meaning “Plain Old Telephone Service.”

There are other communication channels used by alarm systems over the years, including long range radios, direct wire connections, and even one technology that was once common, but is now getting pretty hard to find - the McCullough loop. And of course, as cellular communication became more widespread and price effective, it was natural for the alarm industry to adopt it for monitoring.

Copper Lines Going Away

But telephone subscribers have been cancelling copper phones in the home at a tremendous pace. Many households use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) instead – just think of Vonage. Other homes rely just on cellular phones – and have no physical phone connection. Recognizing this trend, AT&T is requesting that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) relieve AT&T of the obligation to maintain the POTS network across the US. This is big news – especially for the many homeowners who have kept that vulnerable old copper line only to support an outdated alarm system. Here’s the article.

An AT&T executive appeared before a Congressional subcommittee last month and asked the House to help clear a path to discontinue support nationwide for its POTS network in favor of a transition to a more advanced broadband infrastructure.

James Cicconi, senior vice president for External and Legislative Affairs at AT&T, asked the subcommittee to help push the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to plan for the gradual transition away from copper networks. AT&T has proposed creation of a 4G network that would cover 300 million people by the end of 2014, and a broadband network that would provide high-speed IP Internet access to 99 percent of its service area by the end of 2015.

Crux of the Matter

He told the subcommittee that consumers are abandoning POTS lines at a rapid pace, speaking "loudly and clearly” about their desire for wireless and IP-based communications. Cicconi said the company currently has about 13.9 million POTS lines nationwide, while Verizon has about 7.2 million. He cited Florida and Michigan as examples of states where POTS has drastically declined, with only about 15 percent of homes in each state connected to a POTS network.

Wow! Compare that to the close to 100% penetration that POTS lines used to enjoy nationwide! More from the article…

"The economics of maintaining the POTS network while simultaneously deploying broadband everywhere in those states just won’t work,” Cicconi said. "There simply aren’t enough investment dollars to do both, even for a company as large as ours.”

Not the First Time

This is not the first such request by AT&T. The last time was several years ago – and yes, FrontPoint was on the case with a blog post then, as well! And there have been subsequent requests.

Late last year, AT&T filed a petition with the FCC proposing a transition to an all-IP network by 2020. Cicconi asked the subcommittee to urge the FCC to act now on AT&T’s request, starting with real-world beta testing in selected geographic areas.

He said the trials would offer "clear benefits,” and added that AT&T is not looking for a regulation-free system. The company is simply asking the FCC to allow it to react to an evolving marketplace that wants faster communications.

The “New Entrants” Know Cellular is Safer

Several cable and telco providers have recently entered the alarm industry, and they appear to know very well what is safer when it comes to monitoring alarm systems: that’s why these companies (Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, and yes, even AT&T) all use a cellular radio as a primary or backup channel for monitoring. Unfortunately, they have chosen to use a vulnerable broadband connection for their highly touted interactive services, which renders those services susceptible to the same $3 pair of wire cutters that can take out a POTS or VoIP line. Better to use the more robust and more reliable cellular connection for everything – the way FrontPoint does.

With a burglary taking place every 14 seconds in the US, more people are investing in the pace of mind that comes from monitored home security. And when they do, the smart shoppers are insisting on safer cellular monitoring. FrontPoint specializes in these systems: as the leader in wireless home security, and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US, that’s our commitment. You can even set up your FrontPoint system yourself, in about half an hour, and move it when you move. FrontPoint systems are safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat – and when POTS lines are a thing of the past, it won’t affect our customers a bit.

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