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63. ISDN Survives Like Vinyl    4/30/15   by Dave Immer

There will always be niches of past technologies  like Vinyl LPs, Tape Recorders and Analog Synthesizers that have proven their strengths and fulfill a persistent demand. Circuit-switched ISDN is one such niche. The great majority of the general population only wants and needs packet-switched broadband IP. Yet ISDN, like Vinyl, survives in no small part because of the determined community of users who recognize it’s unique strengths (see previous post “Let’s Review”.)

Most ISDN is in the form of Basic Rate Interface circuits, or BRIs. A BRI circuit keeps the administration of the ISDN service in the hands of the telco. A Primary Rate Interface, or PRI, shifts much of the administration to the user, making it easier for the telco to support and less likely to screw it up.

Time for a reality check: While the telcos are spending money to support BRIs they are seeing ever shrinking revenue from them. There is undoubtedly pressure within the telcos to stop providing this unprofitable technology and sell more PRIs.

So major local and long distance providers are implementing various policies to discourage new BRI accounts. For instance, Verizon states it is not providing new BRI circuits in the Northeast and other service areas (although I am still able to order new lines.) AT&T has raised it’s monthly BRI access fees to $500 and more in some of it’s territories.

But certain providers continue to welcome new ISDN BRI accounts such as CenturyLink and Frontier (even Verizon and AT&T in some markets.) Plus PRI circuits are available via fiber-optic lines, breathing new life into ISDN.

Comments and questions welcome.

-Dave