How POTS Pricing, Privacy Act May Impact Monitoring Centers
Central stations should be proactive as changes to POTS make seeking alternatives for subscribers more appealing.
Monitoring centers are facing some of the greatest challenges in their history today on several fronts, which for many include workforce/hiring, legislation/regulations and product shortages/supply chain slowdown.
It is more important than ever that monitoring centers not only stay informed on these and other issues, but take a proactive, strategic posture in their planning and operations to diminish the negative impact on their business.
Tackling the Technology Frontline
Now that for the most part the 3G sunset is behind us, the next big challenge is to transition your subscribers off POTS and onto other technologies. In August, impactful changes in pricing to POTS as a result of an FCC action are set to take place.
Many years ago, the FCC put in place a rule that forced LECs (local exchange carriers) like AT&T, Verizon, Centurylink, etc. to provide services to CLECs (competitive LECs) at wholesale rates. For example, if you wanted to use a CLEC as your carrier/phone provider, but they didn’t have copper in the ground to the building, the LEC was forced to provide last-mile services at wholesale costs.
Now, prices for certain services purchased from CLECs are likely to have gone up by Aug. 2, following FCC actions in Order 19-72A1. If you purchased service from a CLEC that is using price cap LEC facilities or services, you could be impacted. This applies to monitoring stations as well as the subscribers’ facilities and the costs of POTS line or other TDM services.
After Aug. 2, the wholesale rate no longer has to be low, the LECs will likely raise rates for these services, and in turn, the CLECs will be forced to raise the rates to the consumers and/or monitoring centers. We’ve seen rates going up as much as 10 times, which at that point is cost prohibitive to use.
The FCC has taken other actions that are leading to the retirement of copper lines and the discontinuance of TDM service. The POTS we knew in the 1970s and 1980s is going away every day across the country. Retransmission services are experiencing outages and lacking redundancy. With several viable options available, such as IP, cellular or private mesh radio, the process is so much easier than before.
Looking at Legislative Agenda
According to John A. Prendergast, Blooston Law, privacy legislation is one for monitoring centers to watch. The American Data Privacy and Protection Act, H.R. 8152, if passed, would establish the rules for when and how consumer data can be shared. It was considered by the House Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee just prior to the July 4 Congressional recess.
Concerns were raised by the alarm industry as to the impact the bill would have on its ability to monitor customers and then transmit information on intrusions, health emergencies and fires to emergency responders. The TMA’s Alarm Industry Communications Committee, composed of reps of TMA, ESA, SIA and major alarm firms and manufacturers, sought the inclusion of language that would allow companies to do so.
The bill now includes under the definitions of permissible services: “To prevent, detect, protect again, or respond to a security incident, or fulfill a product or service warranty. For purposes of this paragraph, security is defined as network security as well as instruction, medical alerts, fire alarms, and access control security.”
The bill was slated to be considered by the full House Commerce Committee in July and then by the House. It’s unclear whether the Senate will take up the bill, as leading Democrats believe that its privacy enforcement provisions are inadequate.
Another important legislative development for the monitoring community to watch is a proposed bill addressing drone defense. In April, the Biden Administration adopted the “Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan,” to proactively address threats and protect the United States against “nefarious UAS activity.”
The administration is asking for legislation that would help implement this plan, including the authorization of private sector “critical infrastructure” protection. If the legislation is worded favorably, this could create an angle for the alarm industry to gain the ability to defend against drones that may spy on or physically threaten their protected customers.
Leigh McGuire is Director, MarCom, The Monitoring Association (tma.us).
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