This blog is aimed mostly at telephone companies and various CLECs who have been operating on the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). This network has been used for interconnection to the local incumbent offices and tandem switches, for connecting to 911 centers, for connecting to operator services, for connecting to cellular carriers, or for connecting to other neighboring carriers.
At CCG, we are finally starting to see that network being shut down, route by route and piece by piece. But like everything related to operating in the regulated legacy world, it’s not easy to disconnect the PSTN connections called trunks. The big incumbent telcos like AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, and others will continue to bill for these connections long after they stop being functional.
I don’t use this blog to make many pitches for my consulting practice, but I think we’re one of the few consultants left in the industry that can help to unwind and stop the billing of the old PSTN network arrangements. We spent many years helping ILECs and CLECs originally order these connections. The ordering process for the PSTN has always been complicated and cryptic. Carriers need to go through those same systems to cut a circuit dead. You often can’t stop the billing by calling or writing to the incumbents – network arrangements need to be unwound in the reverse manner they were built in the first place.
It’s not surprising that this is hard to do. The ordering system was made difficult on purpose after the big telcos decided they didn’t like the requirements of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that required them to share their networks with other carriers. After that FCC order, big telcos purposefully made it hard to initiate a connection with them – and now it’s just as hard to disconnect. The big telcos will be glad to continue to bill for circuits for years after they no longer work.
I have no idea how long it’s going to take the PSTN to die, but it’s finally starting to be disassembled, piece by piece. In some ways, it’s a shame to see this network die because it was the first nationwide communication network. It was built right, and it was reliable. Outages came from the same issues that still plague networks, and a fiber cut has always been able to isolate a town or a region from the PSTN.
Sadly, the big telcos never spent the money to create route redundancy. Folks like me have shouted for decades that there was no way to justify multi-day rural network outages when we know how to solve the problem. These outages are still happening today – and the fibers that carry the PSTN are often the same fiber routes that act as the only broadband backbone route into a rural area.
I remember twenty years ago when I had a few small telephone company clients who were willing to solve the redundancy problem by building a new fiber route. We were shocked when Verizon and AT&T refused to connect the new routes into the PSTN. Apparently, the big telcos were more worried about being bypassed than they were about having a more reliable network.
Over time, and as a result of some orders from State regulators, the big telcos allowed route redundancy when somebody else paid for it. Today, large carriers like Level 3, Zayo, and many others cross the country with alternate transport routes, but unfortunately, there are still a lot of rural places where the only available fiber comes from the incumbents.
If you are having problems disconnecting or rearranging connections with other carriers, give us a shout. This could be connections with a large telco, with cellular towers, or to other local carriers. You can contact Derrel Duplechin at CCG at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hate to see the PSTN starting to go. But even more, we hate to see folks who can’t figure out how to get a divorce from the big telcos.