PSTN Abandonment: Is it happening?

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What was once a 20 year life cycle for core networking switched voice equipment (the central office) has been reduced to 10 years, or even less. When you reduce a piece of equipment’s natural lifespan, you increase the monthly cost of its amortization accordingly.

Decreasing Equipment Lifecycles
Based on simple math alone, if you bought a “box” to provide a service to your customers, and the life expectancy of that box was 20 years, you could easily calculate your cost per month per customer. If, because of new technology, the life expectancy were reduced to five years, your monthly-amortized cost would increase by four times to compensate for that event.

Diminishing Customer Base
Based on simple math alone, if you bought a “box” to provide a service to your customers, and your customer base diminishes by 50%, based on the above “20 year model”, your annual amortized expense would double per customer.

Decreased Support Cost For New Equipment
The legacy network required a trained workforce, roving around in vehicles, full of expensive test equipment. New modern networks can reside in “dark centers” where access to programming and diagnostics is all accomplished remotely through a data connection. This does nothing to reduce the expense of a trained workforce, but it does remove the requirement to have that workforce out in the streets in vehicles. Not only does this eliminate transportation expenses, it reduces the average time to repair since travel is not required.

The Perfect Storm: SANDY
Late in the fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy barreled its way up the East Coast causing significant damage to our telecommunications infrastructure from Washington DC to New England. It was a classic example of the 100 year storm, and in addition to causing several outages, much of the infrastructure became destroyed. This poses a unique problem to telecommunications carriers like AT&T, Verizon and Century Link. Do they rebuild their aging infrastructure that was just recently amortized off the books, or was just about to be? If they do, they have to start the “20 year clock” all over again, but they are faced with statements that the PSTN will start to go away in five short years. [See my blog at www.Avaya.com/Fletcher – PSTN to end in 2018]

It’s not surprising then why several stories are cropping up like the one about Fire Island, New York, and Verizon attempting to NOT restore the legacy telephone network on copper lines. See the story “Verizon Seeks to Abandon Landlines on Fire Island”, [http://stopthecap.com/2013/03/20/verizon-seeks-to-abandon-landlines-on-fire-island-wireless-or-you-are-on-your-own/].

The story reports that concerned residents may register a complaint either by filling out a complaint form on the New York State Public Service Commission website or calling the NYSPSC directly at (800) 342-3377.

The story also reports that “Verizon officials have defended their decision, claiming a wireless system is more robust and can withstand severe weather better than a wired network.” However, it seems that Verizon lost 25 percent of its landline business in the last two years, as the company claims 80 percent of Verizon-handled calls to and from the island are through Verizon Wireless.

The question that remains, “Does the Verizon Wireless Voice Link service offer the same functionality as traditional land lines?” Apparently, the answer to that question is “NO”. Verizon’s response is that Voice Link is a voice-only product. It does not support advanced services such as:

  • Broadband
  • Telephone modem connections
  • Faxing
  • Alarm monitoring
  • Home medical monitoring
  • TDD/TTY for the hearing impaired or deaf
  • Credit card processing

Once Again E911 is Questionable
Reportedly, it does support E911, however, I would like to know through what mechanism is E911 being supported. If it is being treated as a wired fixed location, then I have a concern with someone moving the service and not updating that location. If it provides E911 through the cellular network, just pick up the newspaper and you will see a plethora of stories with public safety recommending that you NOT use a cellular phone, but instead use a landline phone which by default provides address information to a 911 operator.

Cellular phones do not always use GPS positioning, especially indoors where a GPS signal is not available. In these cases, TDOA (time delay on arrival) algorithms are used to detect the distance of the device from one or more towers, therefore providing a general area. If interpreted incorrectly, public safety may show up at your neighbor’s house, while you lie on the floor unable to move or speak.

Since text messaging to 911 is NOT yet available, the requirement to have an analog line still exists for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and require the use of a TTY or TDD device. Once again a classic example of how this community of people is completely ignored from a technology perspective, and treated like second-class citizens.

Big Brother is NOT Watching
Most of the conspiracy theorists think that there is too much oversight and watching by the government. No matter what side of that argument that you sit on, there is a concern where no government oversight exists. While customers are afforded some level of protection with legacy telephony services and oversight by the Public Service Commission and the FCC, customers will lose that oversight if things go wrong with Voice Link. As it stands today, Voice Link, is an unregulated service not subject to government oversight.

Got a complaint? Call the PSC.
Oh wait, that’s right, you can’t call the PSC, as your phone line is dead.

New England is Not Alone
Hear that rumbling? That’s not the daily thunderstorm rolling through the Sunshine State. It’s Verizon’s “Project Thunder”. It seems that the extensive buried underground facilities are deteriorating beyond repair, and if you are outside of a Fios service area, when you reported trouble on your copper circuit you will be persuaded to move to Voice Link wireless services.

The Crystal Ball Predicts . . .
This evolution of the Public Switched Telephone Network should come as no surprise to anyone. Several articles have been written including this one by Teresa Mastrangelo last July in her article, ” Verizon Getting Aggressive with Copper Plant Shutdown
[http://broadbandtrends.com/blog1/2012/07/23/verizon-getting-aggressive-with-copper-plant-shutdown/]

As published in “BroadbandTrends”:

“Historically, the gating factor to shutting down the PSTN was regulatory. However, Verizon has successfully lobbied in Florida and Virginia and Texas to pass some forms of deregulation, which allows Verizon “to invest where customers want us to invest and start to sunset some of the older technology.” As such, it appears that once FiOS reaches a certain penetration level in a market, the decision is made to migrate all customers towards FiOS as is already happening in markets such as Dallas.”


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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

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Until next week. . . dial carefully.

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At Avaya, we strongly believe the answer is a resounding YES! We are well aware that what goes on behind the scenes to coordinate the customer experience can be dauntingly complex. The latest release of Avaya IP Office Contact Center takes into account midsize businesses’ needs and requirements for simplicity and affordability, and the desire to deliver a top-notch customer experience.

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The IoT Chronicles Part 2: Three Big Security Threats—and How to Solve Them

With projected market revenue of $1.7 trillion by 2020, the Internet of Things (IoT) stands to forever change the world as we know it. In part 1 of this series, I demystified the IoT and explored how leaders can create a vertical-driven strategy that produces positive and proactive business outcomes. Your strategy won’t get you far, however, if it doesn’t explicitly address the unique security threats that are inherent to this level of connectivity.

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With the number of connected “things” growing, it’s expected that more hackers will feed off the ever-growing possibilities to attack, threaten and compromise business. Consider the recent IoT-driven DDoS attack on Internet performance company Dyn, which disrupted websites like PayPal, Spotify and Twitter. Dyn’s Chief Strategy Officer admitted last month that some of the traffic that attacked the company came from compromised IoT devices.

As I continue this four-part IoT crash course, I’d be remiss in not discussing security. Having said that, here are three massive IoT security threats we’re seeing today (and how to expertly address them):

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    Research shows that about 40% of U.S. employees at large enterprises bring their own device(s) to work, and 75% of companies currently permit or plan to permit BYOD in the workplace. Today, there’s a clear need among businesses to securely connect these personally owned devices that simultaneously perform multiple functions and connect to public, private and hybrid clouds. It may be easy to secure enterprise IoT, but this gets a lot trickier when you factor in the devices employees are using on your network. Just consider the 10 million Android devices that were infected this summer with Chinese malware.

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  2. Open APIs:

    An open API model is advantageous in that it allows developers outside of companies to easily access and use APIs to create breakthrough innovations. At the same time, however, publicly available APIs are also exposed ones. Promoting openness means anyone can write new APIs (which is a good thing), but that can cause some challenges in the market. If an organization has undocumented features of its API, for instance, or if someone is rolling out an API and doesn’t have it properly documented or controlled, hackers can potentially take advantage. At the end of the day, businesses must be cautious as to what is being exposed and documented when writing APIs.

  3. Influx of data:

    The amount of data being gathered from today’s ever-growing number of connected “things” is simply astounding. In fact, research shows that about 90% of all data in the world today was created in just the past few years (2.5 billion GB of data were being produced every day in 2012 alone!) While big data has the potential to transform internal processes and the customer experience, leaders must ensure they have the right infrastructure in place to securely distribute and store the massive amount of data that flows through their organizations daily.

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The One Thing to Remember

Here’s the thing business leaders must keep top of mind: although the possibilities for data compromise are growing, they’ll never become realities with network security solutions offered from the right provider. This doesn’t mean your security concerns aren’t valid. It simply means that, with the right technology, there’s no longer a reason to let those concerns prevent you from tapping into the immeasurable growth brought about by the IoT.

So, what’s my final suggestion? Organizations should consider a layered approach:

  • Phase I: Analyze, monitor and inspect.
  • Phase II: When classifying a device as suspect, isolate it to a different segment and perform forensic analysis.
  • Phase III:
    • Quarantine the device if known malware is detected and identified.
    • If the cause is unknown/unidentified, maintain isolation in a honeypot—a quarantine zone to understand malware—and deploy counter measures as soon as possible once a fix becomes available.
  • Phase IV: Once malware is clearly identified, quarantine all devices potentially infected while informing the end users and LOBs impacted.

For Phases II and III, invoke an automated sophisticated workflow to notify the right team for just-in-time analysis.

To properly execute on these phases, you need an automated and more secure networking foundation. The legacy client-server is simply not suitable for this new IoT world. Whatever services your connected devices or systems provide, do whatever you can to ensure they are logically segmented on your infrastructure. This is something that can be achieved through end-to-end network segmentation.

An end-to-end network segmentation solution eliminates nodal configuration by leveraging end-to-end Virtual Services Networks (VSNs). This allows businesses to provision their networks only at specific points of service, where those services are being consumed by end users or devices. Ultimately, end-to-end segmentation transforms your network core into an automated and intelligent virtualized transport. Your network segments will be stealth to hackers, flexible for secure and authorized use, and truly isolated from one another. These core capabilities nearly guarantee network security no matter what devices your employees are using, how much data they are generating and sharing, or what APIs are being written.

Your network security strategy will never be effective if your underlying architecture isn’t what it needs to be. In my opinion, end-to-end network segmentation is the most effective way to minimize and control the inherent security risks of the IoT. And the best news is that there are end-to-end segmentation solutions proven to deliver next-generation IoT security—even for companies still leveraging aging infrastructure. The technology is possible, real and waiting to be utilized.

As we move forward with the IoT, we must ensure security is always top of mind. There are a set of best practices that organizations must implement to substantially reduce the risks associated with IoT deployment. Keep in mind, there are no immune systems, but understanding the risks and minimizing the potential business impact is key. In the end, status quo will likely be a disaster for organizations endorsing the IoT at a rapid pace—changes to legacy practices and infrastructure are a must! Thankfully, technology advancements can provide the connectivity, stability and security required to enable companies to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the IoT.