Copper Phone Lines Are Going Away: Are You Prepared?

By Mark Wasser | April 6, 2022
Mark Wasser is Ntiva's Director of Unified Communications, our expert on all things VoIP!

Plain Old Telephony Service (POTS) - the traditional copper wire network that has been around since the 1880s -  is no longer going to be supported by the major phone carriers in the U.S.

Most carriers have moved on to newer technologies, such as fiber optics and mobile/cellular, and no longer need or want to support outdated network infrastructure.

How will this affect YOUR organization?

Quick background first!

In response to a 2010 order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that mandates all POTS lines in the US be replaced with an alternative service by August 2, 2022, major carriers like Verizon and AT&T have been dropping support for these copper-based lines as well as raising prices for POTS service dramatically – sometimes doubling or tripling per-line costs.

While it may not be a surprise to learn POTS use has declined, the numbers are still staggering: By 2015, over half of American households had gone wireless-only.

Landline Phones Are a Dying BreedCarriers had long been frustrated by having to maintain increasingly expensive copper phone lines (and telephone pole infrastructure) for a dwindling number of customers, all for the sake of fulfilling its “universal service” regulatory obligations.

Once the requirement to support POTS is dropped, the dominoes will fall even faster, with carriers diverting resources away from traditional phone lines and toward more popular (and profitable) offerings.

The end result will eventually be the complete decommissioning of copper phone lines. 

So let’s look at the services this decision affects—and how that can impact your business.

POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service)

Considered the standard for residential use, the POTS line was also critical for commercial businesses in several ways.

  • Due to its Five-Nines reliability, POTS lines were required for elevators, fire and burglar alarm systems, Point of Sale, red phones and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) backup.
  • POTS lines were also the backbone of fax machines (which are still in use in many business environments).

Even years after a successful shift to Voice over IP (VoIP), many companies still rely on POTS for many of their legacy and safety devices.

So, what should you do about the copper phone line decommissioning?

Fortunately, because the writing has been on the wall for a while, solutions have arisen that offer the same “Old Faithful” reliability of POTS.

Businesses will soon be required to replace their POTS lines with a wireless POTS replacement device. These devices use LTE cellular service with an Ethernet backup to connect to the associated service provider.

Not sure if you are still utilizing POTS?

One the easiest places to start is to contact your phone provider to ask if your phone line is a VoIP line or a traditional analog phone line.

We also recommend doing an inventory of your POTS lines and associated devices they connect to. You don’t want the decommissioning to take place and oops—a system you thought was on VoIP is now down for the count.

PRI (Primary Rate Interface)

The other upcoming casualty is the Primary Rate Interface (PRI).

A PRI is a dedicated copper connection between a business and its telephone service provider. It’s used to connect an on-premises business phone system to the PSTN (Public Switch Telephone Network) for making and receiving external calls.

Just like the POTS line, weakening demand and the increased cost to support the antiquated technology is the driving force behind its demise: Carriers are already increasing the monthly price of a PRI or are no longer renewing annual subscriptions.

Instead, customers will need to convert their service to a newer technology called SIP (Session Initiated Protocol). This conversion will most likely be an expensive one due to the required upgrade of the on-premises phone system.

In most cases, migrating the voice services to a hosted cloud provider will be a better option.


Technology changes, and while copper phone infrastructure may soon be in our rear-view mirror, we’re always here to help you master the exciting new digital road you’re on.

If you are an Ntiva client, please reach out to your Account Manager who can help you through this process!

Not yet on VoIP and want to learn more about hosted VoIP services? Check out the article below!

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Tags: Business Telephony