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The countdown to the end of copper POTS lines has begun

By Carol Studenmund

FCC Order 19-72A1 releases telephone carriers from obligations to maintain copper POTS lines as of August 2, 2022. POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. For decades, captioning data has been delivered to caption encoders at broadcast facilities through copper POTS lines. The end of the use of POTS lines is a significant milestone in the captioning field.

When captioning technology was developed in the 1970s, captioning data was sent through telephone lines to television stations. Over the years, as technology evolved, the telephone lines became less reliable for transmitting captioning data. Telephone lines were being compressed as the demand for more data capacity rose. The lines would drop or impact the caption data as it was shown on the screens. Garbled captions started to become a routine technical issue.

The captioning technology evolved to using internet connections between the captioner and the television station. In 2015, the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) met with the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) to bring this issue to the attention of the Society’s members. Many television stations did not realize how imperative it was to update captioning equipment. To better inform them, the SBE shared a press release from NCRA addressing this point. Now, in 2022, most television stations have moved to internet delivery of captions. For the few remaining television stations still using POTS lines to receive captioning data, FCC Order 19-72A1 will require them to update how they receive their data.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a broadcast captioner and CART provider from Portland Ore. She also serves on NCRA’s Captioning Committee. She can be reached at cstudenmund@LNSCaptioning.com.

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