FAQ: Changes to Your Phone Line That Could Drastically Affect Your Security System
October 14, 2022
We never enjoy being the bearer of bad news but we won’t let that stand in the way of your best interests. It’s time everyone fully understands the changes to traditional telephone lines and how those changes can affect your security system and fire alarm communications. These are changes that currently pose a huge risk to your safety but there is a simple solution so that you can remain protected! If you have further questions after reading this blog please Contact Us or call 1-844-806-4187.
First, let’s go over some basic definitions so that everyone is on the same page. Then we’ll get into the FCC’s changes and what you can (and should) do about it.
Q: What are POTS (plain old telephone service, i.e. your landline, copper lines) lines used for?
A: Some uses for POTS include:
Q: What change did the FCC make and why?
A: The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) deregulated standard, copper phone lines (POTS) so that the phone companies are no longer required to maintain them. This has given major phone companies, such as AT&T, the freedom to legally move away from POTS lines without informing their customers.
They are making this move because POTS lines have become expensive to maintain. The most common option as they move away from traditional copper lines is voice over internet protocol (VoIP). VoIP is viable for making phone calls but it is not reliable or recommended for fire and burglar alarm communications with a monitoring center.
Q: Why isn’t VoIP reliable for my security system or fire alarm?
A: As the name implies, VoIP was designed to transmit communications via voice rather than data (unlike copper wires which transmit sound). Consequently, all burglar and fire alarms communicate via data which means monitoring centers may not understand the new VoIP signal being sent. How VoIP compresses and uncompresses signals can dramatically affect the attempted messaging. These communication errors are why most major alarm panel manufacturers don’t support VoIP. In other words, this is not an alarm system issue, it’s a telecom issue.
A second and very strong reason VoIP isn’t reliable for your home or business security is that it requires an internet signal to work (also implied in the name). When the power goes out, that connection to your modem and router is cut off. Traditional phone lines and newer radio/cellular technology do not rely on power.
Lastly, VoIP providers can use varying technology, making another case for security system incompatibility.
**For these reasons, we do not recommend using VoIP with your home or business security system even if your provider claims to be compatible.**
PRO TIP: Your Per Mar security system has its own dedicated battery backup plus we have redundancies for major power outages.
Q: What is the hard cutoff date for this change?
A: August 2, 2022 was when the phone companies were no longer required to maintain POTS lines. It seems they were also not required to communicate changes to their customers. In our experience, it’s still a work in progress and we’re seeing our customers getting dropped from their POTS lines in waves, from town to town. From what we can tell, there is not necessarily a schedule and, even if there was, they do not have to communicate their timelines or decisions with you.
Q: How does this FCC change affect my security system?
A: All major networks are now allowed to deactivate their POTS lines and switch them to VoIP without making consumers aware of the change. Your security system is likely working properly, however, we won’t be able to confirm that until your monthly automated test. Per Mar security systems are programmed to test every 30 days so, if your phone company switches you to VoIP without telling you, it’s possible we will not know it for up to 29 days. If an emergency or event happens during that time, you’ll know it’s not working but, by then, it’ll be too late.
Q: How will I know if my phone service is switched from POTS to VoIP?
A: Since your phone provider does not have to alert you of the switch, you may not know. We are finding that notifications are not being sent in many cases. Not only that, when asked, the phone company doesn’t have to tell you of their plans. So, when you call, they may assure you that they won’t switch your service to VoIP but proceed to switch you at a later date. It’s not ideal but, with the FCC no longer regulating, there is no way to know if and when these changes happen.
Q: What’s the best approach if I still want a landline and a security system?
A: You can have both and we can still call you on your landline if your alarm goes off. What we are trying to avoid is using VoIP to communicate your alarms on a POTS line due to the above-mentioned potential failures. There is a simple solution though!
We cannot emphasize enough how critical it is to switch to radio/cellular communications for your home and business security systems and fire alarms.
Many of our customers have eliminated their landline phones after switching over but you certainly don’t have to! If you opt to keep your landline phone for making calls, the only downside is that you’ll end up paying for both phone and cellular services once you’ve made the recommended switch.
Q: Is there any other bad news?
A: Nope! You can certainly hang on to your landline if you’d like but we don’t feel comfortable running your security system through it anymore because of these changes. Radios are the most reliable transmission method available at this time and we have special offerings to future-proof the technology for you. We’ll always make these transitions as smooth and painless as possible!