The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in Transition

The second of two workshops on the PSTN in Transition was held Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at the Federal Communication Commission, 9am Eastern. A replay should be available soon.  

"We're not taking away Grandma's phone," declared the opening speaker. The idea here is that we should refer to the transition as "rebirth and renewal" rather than the sunset of the PSTN. Don't scare Grandma! 

IP Telephony matters. These are the clients of our toll free services. Yet, even of those who have adopted VOIP, the vast majority still use conventional touch tone phones as their interface. 

The reality of the IP world in place today may best be demonstrated by this FCC webcast itself. During the course of Wednesday's six-hour broadcast, the picture froze or disconnected every 10-15 minutes and there was constant buzz in the audio -- even before the sessions began. Was this due to our IP provider? My computer? Maybe the FCC uplink? Who knows, and who would you call if you really needed quality of service?

One speaker likened the PSTN transition to a Quarter-Life Crisis; where adolescence ends and adult responsibility begins. Another noted that social values apply - privacy, public safety, disability access, etc. -- regardless of what technology is deployed. Another lamented that if we can't first agree on values, we will never agree on policy.

"Transitions take time," stated another who offered a striking example: The last hand-cranked telephone was not decommissioned until 1983, decades after it was declared "dead." One speaker called into question the viability of enum as the basis of future addressing, given the necessity of universal adoption (More of that and it's implications to toll free numbers soon).

Despite one speakers observation that the PSTN transition is 75% complete, where we really are may best be summed up by an expression of gratitude at the end of today's session: "Thank you for helping us to begin our planning." 

Sit back. Take a breath. The planning has just begun. Toll Free Numbers are going be serving a parallel universe for quite some time.

See Part 1 Here!