UK set to turn off fax machines

UK set to turn off fax machines

UK set to turn off fax machines

Fax machines are heading to the UK’s tech graveyard, after the UK parliament scrapped the requirement on telephone networks to support the technology.

Fax machines rose to prominence in the late 1980s, providing a pre-Internet way of sending documents. For a certain generation, that horrible beep followed by reams of paper falling from the fax machine will never be forgotten.

However, as with many technologies, online services and e-mail have dramatically reduced the use of fax machines. But, until recently, two of the UK’s phone providers were required to support faxing on their networks as part of what’s known as the Universal Service Obligation (USO). Not anymore.

Parliament recently voted to scrap USO fax services and telecoms regulator Ofcom has now changed its rules, sounding the last message for persistent fax machines in UK offices.

The big switch

As Ofcom explains in its statement, changing the rules will not mean that fax machines will suddenly stop.

“This change does not mean that fax services will stop working immediately, but instead BT and KCOM will no longer have an obligation to provide faxes under our rules – this will ensure that our rules reflect the requirements universal service legislation and are not too burdensome,” the regulator said.

However, even if BT and KCOM give fax machines a break on their networks, it won’t last long. BT is currently in the process of decommissioning its public switched telephone network (PSTN) on which faxing relies, as it migrates to an all-IP network. This migration should be completed in 2025.

Fax recalcitrants

An Ofcom consultation on the phasing out of USO faxing found that there were still a small number of people dependent on fax machines in the UK.

Anonymous respondents to the Ofcom consultation said that “they consider fax to be more secure than other alternatives, particularly if they share bank details, and that fax may also be needed as a help in case of internet/computer failure”.

Another argued that “the technology to transmit a signed, dated and witnessed document was generally not yet available to the public”.

Business groups have also opposed the proposal, with an unnamed trade body saying “its industry code specified fax as an approved mechanism for communications between interested industry parties and that, until until the code is changed, the industry must continue to operate under this obligation.

Alternatives to fax

However, the regulator was not convinced by those who argued that the fax was irreplaceable. “While we note the concerns raised by respondents, we (and the DCMS [the U.K. government’s Department of Culture Media and Sport]) are not aware of any specific need for using fax that would not be easily met by any of the available alternatives, including for users who may be disabled, such as text phones for deaf and hard of hearing citizens , and that would lead us to delay implementing the order change,” Ofcom said.

“Email, picture messaging, document management platforms, secure online file transfer services and electronic signature services are widely available in the UK,” Ofcom added.

“These services enable reliable delivery of time-sensitive documents and are available either free of charge or relatively inexpensive. Many of these services have the option of including password protection to ensure they are secure, and as noted by CCP [Communications Consumer Panel]can provide a higher level of personal data protection.

It seems that the recalcitrant will have to face the fax: it’s over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *