More on VoIP and POTS



    Just wanted to comment on Roy Perry’s message.  He is correct that NFPA 2010 mentions MFVNs; it defines the term in the definitions section, and only discusses them in Annex A.  Annexes are for informational purposes only and do not form part of the code requirements.  I was not able to find a place in the code body where it is stated that “All phone lines must now be provided by MFVNs”.  Chapter 26 clearly states that DACTs shall be connected to Public Switched Telephone Networks, and also states that alternative communications methods are allowable as long as they are consistent with Chapter 10 and other intended levels of protection.  In the case of Fire Alarm monitoring, Chapter 10 states that all on-premise equipment have 24 hours of standby power, a level that may not be met by a cable provider’s standard equipment.   Annex A states 8 hours are acceptable for MFVNs, but again annexes do not form part of the code. 

    In addition, my experience is code adoption by municipalities around the US takes time, many times taking years, and it’s that process of law that supplants enforcement of earlier code editions, not any public statement.  For instance, in my town the building department still operates on the 2002 version of the code as law.  His statement that “NFPA recognizes previous versions of the code cannot be used for guidance because they are obsolete” is simply not correct.  I hope future versions of the code will speak to alarm communications methods in a more clear way and I certainly consider this issue far from resolved.

    Finally, I would like to join in with the many others that have thanked you for providing this valuable communications vehicle for our industry.  I regularly recommend it to my colleagues as an educational tool, in addition to it being a method to stay abreast of the hot topics affecting our industry.

Gene Pecora




    In response to Mr. Weinstein's post, there is a 30 page document in front of the FCC, from AT&T, talking about the majority of the transition from POTS and PTSN to broadband and IP communications. It touches on the why's and when's of this transition. Basically the document, in a nut shell, is asking for the existing regulatory requirements for POTS and PTSN to be dropped. It was interesting to read that Congress charged the FCC with the task of formulating a plan to provide broadband to 100% of the country. This started back in 1996. Now it is down to two distinct issues. First is that POTS and PTSN are diverting much needed capital to move the plan forward. Secondly there are still Federal and State regulations that have a cumulative effect of prolonging the life of POTS and PTSN. Can the industry gamble that this alone will hold things up for another 16 years? I heard that there was an orginal sunset date of 2009. They admitted it was an ambious goal but as fast as technology is changing the next date, I am sure, will be more realistic.

Portland Paul

Technical Ser



    I was informed that in January of 2010, AT&T requested through Congress to set the sunset of all POTS lines for 2014. It is not 100% done deal, but is there any reason to think it would be denied? Instead of the D-Mark interface at your house, it will now be a modem of some sort, quickly installed and replaced without anyone even knowing the change. It will mount outside exactly where your D-mark is now.





    It will probably take years for all states to adopt the 2010 edition of NFPA 72.  People need to remember that the NFPA codes as well the International Code Council’s codes are a recommendation until they are adopted into law by the proper local or state government bodies. 

John Garner

NICET Certification Number 95920

Fire Protection Engineering Technology

Fire Alarm Systems

Level IV

Electronic Specialty Company

Dunbar, WV


Hi Ken,

    To address Mr. Weinstein’s concerns, there was article in SSI.

    According to the article the alarm industry shouldn't be too concerned with the end of POTS because market trends in the alarm industry are making broadband favorable to copper-wire transmissions for professionally monitored fire and intrusion systems.  Seems like the industry is switching over to broadband transmission before any FCC regulations take effect. 

    I’d recommend dealers going to the site mentioned ( and seeing what plans are being made that may impact your business.


Mark Buckley

LV Consulting Group



    I read your column all the time and find the information and comments very informative to say the least.

    I am commenting on a statement recently posted by Ron Perry about VoIP phone lines and fire alarm systems. As far as I know, as I and my other peers interpret the 2010 fire code (NFPA-72) is that you must have "real" loop start (POTS) phone lines for a fire alarm system.

    We are having a real problem with "Comcast" broadband telephone installations in New England...Back fed lines, disconnected systems, failure to communicate, etc. I would really like to get some commentary and try and sort out the fact from the fiction.

    Recently as last week, I attended a Massachusetts security contractors license update course. While there, the discussion came up as to VoIP communications with fire alarms.  Specifically discussed was:  NFPA-72 (2010) section (3) DACT Transmission Means. Where it clearly says "The primary means of transmission shall be a telephone line (number) connected to the public switched network."

    Furthermore, if you go back to section Public Switched Network. "A DACT shall be connected to a public switched telephone network upstream of any private telephone system at the protective premise". Section (B) also states "Special attention shall be required to ensure that this connection is made to only a loop start telephone circuit and not a ground start telephone circuit".

     Nowhere in NFPA-72 can I find where it lists, refer or state anything about VoIP as a approved and accepted method or means of signal transmission. The Instructors and the other individuals in the class all agree that this refers to standard, "POTS" phone lines. NOT VoIP lines.

    So who is right?

    Please let me know where does it specifically state the chapter and verse that VoIP is alright for fire systems DACT's.


Joseph A. Morrison

JM Protective Services, LLC

Manchester, NH



    I  appreciate the passion with which your readers responded to this hot button issue of VOIP.

    The intellect and professionalism of your readers is evidenced by the fact that we can disagree and still treat each other with respect.

    Yes I received an email from the cable industry explaining that NFPA has recognized FACILITIES MANAGED service.........

    My main point is at what point is this code ACCEPTED BY YOUR STATE?

    Several states are still using the NFPA72 / 2007 and have not yet officially accepted the 2010.

    As you all know the acceptance process sometimes goes years into the calendar life of a code or standard...)

    To be fair, someone in CT has petitioned the Ct State Fire Marshall for an official ruling.

    CAN THE COMMUNICATIONS REQUIREMENT OF NFPA72 /2010 be used in advance of acceptance.

    I will keep you all posted when I hear back.

Joel Kent


Windsor CT





    Can Roy please clarify what section in the 2010 edition he is referencing?  I am looking at 2010 NFPA 72 Chapter DACT Transmission Means.    And it still says “(3) The primary means of transmission shall be a telephone line (number) connected to the public switched network.”

    I don’t necessarily disagree with what he is saying, but it has to be in the code somewhere…



I/Q Life Safety Systems, Inc.



    I have attended technical sessions at NFPA over the past several years in regards to telephone services and currently sell UL 864 Fire alarm listed equipment including digital dialers ., multiplex transmitters , coded transmitters, IP transmitters, radio transmiters and Keltron receivers for all these technologies for muncipal and private receiving systems.

    At the last NFPA session a representative from Comcast outlined how they will provide battery backup at the premises and at their central receiving areas to comply with the NFPA members concerns about backup and survivability. Cisco is also offerring advance protocols to insure reliability and alternate path routing among many other offerings to harden the network.

    I was doubtful about the reliability of networking do to all I have witnessed until one of my wrestlers from coaching days came back from a tour of Iraq where as a senior communications officer he deployed I/P weapons and communications in the northern tier with advanced encryption  and security procedures with extremely strong protocols.

    This I believe now is the wave of the future with some standard rules with Ethernet that put us all on the same page communication wise.  The coded systems deployed by municipalities that I sell with the solid state master box over  town wiring  work on the IMSA standard protocol developed in conjunction with Sam Morse in the 1860s. Factory Mutual still lists these for Public use and has perfected the art of testing for city wide use..

    This is proven and still working today.  Proven standards can be perfected, not custom communication protocols which are always suspect. 

    The lecturer at the NFPA June 2010 conference from Comcast said " You will plug into the same  teleco jack  and the same data will come out in a telephony format on the other side as it has always been with battery backup at the premises and to the remote receivers..

Blair Ames


Sales engineering representative


        This was sent to me by J Anderson:


Ken:  From article in betanews:

AT&T: The end of the wireline telephone is in sight.


The nation's second largest wireless carrier in customers makes its bid to

convert the FCC's broadband plan into the beginning of the VoIP transition.

In an historic public response to the US Federal Communications Commission's

request for comments regarding its forthcoming National Broadband Plan, due

before Congress on February 17, AT&T acknowledged not the forthcoming

obsolescence, but the current obsolescence of the wireline telephone system.

Without shame, it even applied the once-degrading acronym "POTS" (Plain Old

Telephone System), interchangeably with "PSTN" (Public Switched Telephone

Network), to refer to the one-time marvel of technology that defined its

predecessor, the Bell System, in the 20th century.


But the new AT&T went a huge step further than to denigrate its stepchild. In

its filing dated December 21 and released Tuesday (PDF available here), the

company called upon the Commission to begin consideration of a formal deadline

for the transition of all wireline customers to a wireless system comprising

broadband and IP-based connectivity -- refraining from referring to 3G or 4G

services in a cellular context. AT&T's reasoning: Carriers can no longer

afford to maintain the old network while simultaneously building out the new



"It is accordingly crucial that the Commission pursue forward-looking

regulatory policies that remove disincentives to private investment and

encourage operators to extend broadband to unserved areas," writes AT&T's

attorneys. "Any such forward-looking policy must enable a shift in investment

from the legacy PSTN to newly deployed broadband infrastructure. While

broadband usage -- and the importance of broadband to Americans' lives -- is

growing every day, the business model for legacy phone services is in a death

spiral. Revenues from POTS are plummeting as customers cut their landlines in

favor of the convenience and advanced features of wireless and VoIP services.

At the same time, due to the high fixed costs of providing POTS, every

customer who abandons this service raises the average cost-per-line to serve

the remaining customers. With an outdated product, falling revenues, and

rising costs, the POTS business is unsustainable for the long run. Yet a web

of federal and state regulations has the cumulative effect of prolonging,

unnecessarily, the life of POTS and the PSTN."


AT&T's arguments appear to have been intentionally designed to mirror those

made by broadcasters during the early debate over the high-definition

transition. While at the same time maintaining that only private investment in

private services could make high-quality HDTV service possible for Americans,

broadcasters looked to both Congress and the FCC to set the hard deadline that

would serve as the ultimate incentive for affiliate stations to make their

investments in the high-def transition.


After a few delays, that transition ended up successful and without serious

incident. Now, AT&T points to the need for a similar transition plan for

wireline phone, calling POTS and PSTN "relics of a by-gone era."


"The business model that sustained circuit-switched voice service over the

last century is dying. For decades, POTS was the primary if not the exclusive

option for voice communications, and nearly all households subscribed," reads

AT&T's filing. "But in recent years technological change and market forces

have made POTS and the PSTN increasingly obsolete. Those same forces make a

full transition to broadband inevitable."


The big problem: Although two-thirds of Americans now subscribe to some kind

of broadband plan, service remains unavailable to as much as 10% of the

country, according to research AT&T cited. Among those households, way too

many have chosen not to subscribe -- a problem only a forced transition would



AT&T credited the success of Skype and Vonage as having driven up

subscriptions to VoIP service, which it now believes to be 18 million

subscribers -- a number that it believes could triple in just two years' time.

But the phenomenal statistics cited by AT&T do not end there:


"In view of the range of alternatives for voice service -- many of which offer

distinct advantages over traditional landline service -- it is not surprising

that the POTS business model is in a precipitous decline. The numbers speak

for themselves. Today, less than 20% of Americans rely exclusively on POTS for

voice service. Approximately 25% of households have abandoned POTS altogether,

and another 700,000 lines are being cut every month. From 2000 to 2008, the

number of residential switched access lines has fallen by almost half, from

139 million to 75 million. Non-primary residential lines have fallen by 62%

over the same period; with the rise of broadband, few customers still need a

second phone line for dial-up Internet service. Total interstate and

intrastate switched access minutes have fallen by a staggering 42% from 2000

through 2008. Indeed, perhaps the clearest sign of the transformation away

from POTS and towards a broadband future is that there are probably now more

broadband connections than telephone lines in the United States. And the

customers who keep POTS are using it less. Wireless phones, e-mail, instant

messaging, blogs, and social networking sites have greatly reduced the need

for legacy voice services, even for customers who retain POTS service. Between

2000 and 2008, aggregate switched access minutes per line declined by 13.2%."


The carriers of legacy local exchanges are being forced to maintain two

networks, one of which customers are clearly turning their backs on, says

AT&T. But the company also acknowledges that transition doesn't mean simply

shutting the old service off, because while customers may be breaking their

old reliances on wireline, the laws of the states and municipalities that

receive tax revenue from communications, remain intact. AT&T foresees the

potential technological benefits from eliminating the need to distinguish

between a "local call" and a "long-distance call" -- any VoIP call can take

any route all over the world. With federal bans already in existence on

Internet taxation, and with the FCC already being on record as favoring the

competitive, relatively regulation-free environment surrounding VoIP -- citing

its 2004 order declaring Vonage free from Minnesota state regulations -- there

are clear benefits for AT&T, Verizon, and their brethren in adopting



But in its filing, AT&T urged the FCC to assert regulatory authority over

Internet services, in order to preserve that more nationalized, simplified

scheme: "Despite Congress's express admonition that implicit subsidies should

be eliminated and replaced with explicit universal service funding mechanisms,

implicit subsidies remain endemic in today's communications marketplace,

particularly in the inter-carrier compensation regime, distorting competition

and creating numerous opportunities for arbitrage."


Recognizing what Vonage has been saying for years, AT&T noted the following:

As long as voice service is treated by the FCC as just another Internet

application ("JAIA?"), and as long as the Commission holds fast to its view

that providers of Internet service should not be regulated by anyone --

themselves, Congress, or the FCC -- on account of applications (the definition

of "net neutrality" as defined by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski), then a new

regulatory "morass" (borrowing AT&T's term) on the order of the existing one

would have to be completely reinvented from scratch. And who would want to do



By diverting the theme of its filing toward the elimination of regulatory red

tape, AT&T skillfully avoided addressing what could, and perhaps should, have

been the central point of the filing: projecting a timeline for the

prospective POTS shutoff date. The year 2020? 2030? At this point, we have no

clue -- the company leaves that ball in the Commission's court. This way,

deployment delays (more of a problem historically for AT&T than Verizon) will

be less to blame for late rollouts, than the unraveling of government

bureaucracies. But simply by raising the subject, the FCC may have no choice

at this point but to paint some sort of brushstroke, even if it's a broad one.


In the meantime, it's noteworthy that AT&T points to broadband and VoIP -- not

even its own 4G LTE service -- as the network that will be servicing America's

voice traffic once the country's wirelines are finally shut down.