Only 33% of U.S. Households Use the PSTN Anymore

Only about 33 percent of U.S. households actually use the public switched network anymore, according to USTelecom.

As of June 2013, incumbent local exchange carriers (telcos) served a total of about 78.5 million switched and VoIP access lines. That is just 44 percent of the 178 million telcos served at the end of 2000.

Traditional switched lines had fallen to 70.5 million by June 2013, or only 40 percent of lines served at the end of 2000.

In eight states, suppliers other than the telco had more wired telephone lines (switched access or VoIP) than the telco, and most of those were provided by the cable TV company.

In an additional 10 states, providers other than the telco had 45 percent to 50 percent of the wired voice connections.

And then there is mobile. The FCC reports that there were 305.7 million mobile voice connections in the United States as of mid-2013, about double the number of all fixed network voice lines.

Looking at the total voice market (including mobile, telco and cable TV or other fixed voice connections), telco market share fell from 60.5 percent to 18.5 percent from 2000 to 2012.

Total telco retail switched access lines have fallen by 60 percent since the year 2000, from 178 million to 71 million.

From the end of 2007 to mid-2013, there were almost 60 million retail switched access lines lost, and the rate of decline was still around 9.5 million per year as of mid-2013.

At the same time, and in large part because of legacy regulations, the majority of capital investments made by U.S. telephone companies from 2006 to 2011 went toward maintaining the declining telephone network (legacy voice), not the high speed access network that represents the future.

One might note that U.S. cable TV companies, that are not so regulated, now account for the “overwhelming percentage” of high speed access lines. The issue is not that cable TV suppliers have more than 50 percent market share in the high speed access market.

The issue is the percentage of market share at the top end of the market. Cable TV suppliers of high speed access have about 58 percent market share, but are getting 80 percent of the net new additions.  

“Today, a majority of American homes have access to 100 Mbps,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.

But it might soon be the case that as much as 75 percent of the fastest connections are supplied by cable TV operators.

In fact, cable modem services broke decisively from asymmetrical digital subscriber line services in 2006. Since then, digital subscriber line services have fallen far behind, and only telco fiber-to-home services have kept pace with cable modem potential speeds.


So it is no surprise that telcos want legacy regulations removed. It comes as no surprise that competitors to the telcos want the legacy rules maintained.

But a reasonable person might well conclude it is foolish to maintain rules that funnel investment capital into a network offering services consumers do not want. That capital is badly needed elsewhere, to create faster access networks supporting Internet Protocol services and apps.
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