Thorner: Illinoisans could be forced to abandon reliable telephone landlines

June 5, 2017

Flickr-landline-telephone

By Nancy Thorner – 

To preserve landlines, Governor Rauner must veto SB 1839. With the passage of SB 1839 into law, Illinois residents and businesses will be stripped of their choice to have landlines.

Who will pay the price for AT&Ts aggressive push to end traditional landline service?

  • Seniors
  • Businesses
  • Working Families
  • People with health issues
  • Disabled and blind
  • Residents of rural areas
  • Individuals who want a choice

 

Loss of reliable 911 emergency services
Why is the loss of traditional, reliable landlines a travesty to all residents and businesses? 911 emergency services will not work during a power outage. This is critical for everyone concerned. All phone service available, including AT&T U-verse, requires electricity to operate the equipment. Even cell phones need to be charged, which is not possible during extended power outages.Before the last hurricane in Florida, the Governor was repeating on TV and radio announcements, “Get a landline! Keep and maintain a landline.”

During Hurricane Sandy the only residents that could stay in touch with others were the ones who could use landlines.  All communication devices dependent on electricity were useless. Cell phones could not be charged and computer-based phone lines dependent on a cable modem, would not work without electricity.

Illinois may not get hurricanes, but the state has had its share of floods, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms that caused power outages.

AARP says, “Recent wireless 911 outages show that telecommunications companies have yet to offer a viable alternative for a significant number of customers. In March, for example, a wireless 911 outage hit AT&T wireless customers in 14 states for about five hours, forcing police departments to urge people to call alternative numbers in an emergency.”

AT&T motive for dismantling copper-wired landlines

AT&T’s reason for aggressively pushing legislation through the General Assembly is to release the corporation from the responsibility for maintaining copper-wired phone lines. AT&Ts agenda: Move customers to computer-based (VoIP) phone services. For the consumer this means using a high speed Internet connection through a cable modem which runs on electricity.

Citizens Utility Board says,  “AT&T, which made $13 billion in profits in 2016, wants the power to end traditional phone service and force customers to use computer-based or wireless substitutes. That could subject those customers to higher bills and unreliable service.”

No reliable alternatives to landline phone services

AT&T claims that its 1.2 million business and residential landline customers have viable alternatives to traditional service…for many people—including seniors, low-income families and rural residents—home phone service is the most reliable, affordable lifeline to vital services such as 911, home security systems and medical monitoring devices.”

A U. S. Senator leading the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (which has jurisdiction over the FCC) writes to a constituent:

For decades, Americans have counted on the nation’s landline communications network and its reliability. Even in a time of great change in our communications networks, I agree that landline voice service is an important service. In fact, many people do not realize that wireless communications networks themselves rely upon the availability of landline communications networks to function effectively. It is critical that consumers are protected during this technological change and that new networks provide the same level of reliability as our legacy landline infrastructure. 

AT&T’s alternative, computer-based VoIP, does not provide the same level of reliability. U-verse is NOT a viable alternative. 

Professionals and businesses that require secure phone service count on landlines. Law firms, real estate offices, medical facilities, government offices, and financial institutions use landlines because they are cyber secure and not connected to the Internet. During a power outage, these businesses have to continue providing consumers with vital services. For cyber secure, uninterrupted phone service, landlines are the only viable option.

Warnings from AARP:

  • Forcing people onto alternatives, such as wireless or computer-based phone service, could subject them to higher bills, lack of service in extended power outages, spotty reception and dropped calls.
  • Landline telephone service allows residents to have reliable access to emergency services; it helps low-income families to connect with job opportunities; it helps small businesses to stay in business and connect with new opportunities and customers; and it allows older residents and residents in rural areas to stay connected to family, friends, and neighbors, as well as vital services. Furthermore, [landline telephone service] saves callers millions of dollars by having access to affordable calling plans.

CUB: “Those who depend on home phone service shouldn’t have that choice stripped away.”

Call Governor Rauner’s office: Springfield:  217 782-0244  Chicago 312 814-2121

 

(This contributor’s opinion does not necessarily reflect Illinois Review’s.)

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