Changes in Phone Systems

The basic analog phone line in your home or business is being phased out.

America’s plain old telephone network (aka, POTS) is rapidly being overtaken by new technology. The future is in Internet-based phone systems (Voice Over IP – VOIP) and many businesses and homes are making the switch.

Though the timing remains unclear, the impact of change and what it means for roughly 100 million Americans who remain reliant on the dated but still-functional system of copper wires and switching stations is up for debate.

The Federal Communications Commission is working toward drafting rules in January to formalize the IP transition — switching communications systems to Internet protocol.

Some argue the government should step aside and allow the marketplace to keep moving toward digital standards, given that many consumers already use voice over Internet (VoIP) lines, mobile phones or various Web-based chat systems such as Skype instead of traditional telephone service.

“Almost everyone will be off this network in the next four years. It is a dead model walking,” said Scott Cleland, of the research and consulting firm Precursor LLC, noting that three quarters of the transition is done.

Cleland, a former White House telecom policy adviser, said that even if people wanted to keep the old system, “they are not making the switches anymore for this. And the engineers they need to keep it alive are retiring.” This is a key issue – the hardware is no longer profitable to make or support and the people who know how to maintain it are growing scarce.  All of which will drive up prices for traditional phone systems.

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