webtorials_logo_60ptGary Audin has developed a comprehensive discussion guide to considerations about the state and future of the PSTN, the public switched telephone network. The amazing global engineering feat (what other human achievement enables any one person to reach any one (or sometimes more) of four billion others?) is faced with both structural change and in the United States, regulatory change. In this paper entitled Can the PSTN be Shut Down?, available for free download on www.webtorials.com (free account required), Gary reviews a number of the technical, business and regulatory options available.

I found the paper a quick read, as Gary writes in a simple and easy-to-read prose. Although he did cover some accounting and business issues, there is still plenty of room to comment on some or all of the points.

Key findings/discussions:

  • Universal Services Fund is a 12% tax on landline services used to subsidize the cost of operating landlines in certain rural parts of America, and installing Internet and telecom in public schools and libraries. It will be a declining pot of $ since landline revenues are declining.
  • The regulatory regime of the telephone network needs to change to account for the need, usefulness and desirability of broadband services. AT&T argues that it needs to invest in broadband, but its PSTN commitment (carrier of last resort occupies a large portion of the paper) is a drain on capital and operating costs.
  • There’s a debate about whether broadband starts at 200 kbps, or should start at 768 kbps.
  • The FCC needs to start the dialog with industry and the public about what’s next for the infrastructure?
  • Will copper pairs really go away?
  • Why did Carlyle (in Hawaii) and Farpoint (VT, NH, ME) go chapter 11?