Amid the noise of the political landscape, you may have overlooked an important issue involving AT&T landline telephone customers. AT&T wants to end its copper landline service in Illinois.
This issue affects 1.2 million business and residential landline customers in Illinois. Bryan McDaniel, Citizen Utility Board director of governmental affairs, added, “Each of those landlines doesn’t serve just one person. So millions of people would be impacted.”
Why would anyone prefer to have a landline rather than a wireless phone service? According to a HELP SQUAD article in the Living section of the July 12, 2017 issue of the Chicago Tribune, “CUB’S main concern about the passing of HB1811 is that VoIP and wireless phone service are not as consistently reliable as copper landlines. For this reason, CUB states that medical devices, home alarm systems and access to 911 could all potentially be compromised.” There is also concern that this change could also adversely affect low-income individuals and those who live in rural areas of Illinois.
How did this happen? In the final days of the 2017 Illinois legislative session, a bill called “HB 1811: Interpreter for Deaf—Sunset” passed. Governor Bruce vetoed this legislation on June 30 (obligating AT&T to continue support of copper landlines), but on the next day the General Assembly overrode that veto. That set in motion AT&Ts ability to end its copper landline service in Illinois.
What’s next? AT&T landline customers will be receiving inserts in their bills titled “We’ve recently made some change to your residential service agreement.” Note two key changes:
- “The amendments (‘Consent to Contact” and “Network Changes”) will automatically begin 30 days after receiving this notice, or July 1, whichever is later. If you don’t agree with the terms of the amendment, call us at 800-288-2020 to cancel your service. If you don’t cancel your service, it means you accept the terms of these amendments.”
- “If you do not allow AT&T to install the new network equipment at your premises, your telephone may be disconnected in compliance with subsection (b) above.”
What can you expect after that? Eric Robinson of the Citizens Utility Board, described the transition: “The process will include a minimum of four notices to residential customers, a process at the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) that could take as long as 255 days, followed by a process at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Following the first two notices, customers who do not believe they have access to an alternative voice service can raise their concern with the FCC, which will conduct an investigation of available alternatives for those customers. The final transition can only occur after completion of any ICC investigation and subsequent similar proceedings at the FCC.”
When Cathy Cunningham, HELP SQUAD columnist, asked how quickly this might all occur, Robinson said, “The process to complete the switchover could take a number of years.”
What can you do to prevent this from happening? Call the local offices of your legislators. Ask the person who answers to give a message to your legislator. Tell them that you need a landline. Explain that wireless phone service is not as consistently reliable as landlines. Explain that medical devices, home alarm systems, and access to 911 could be compromised. Ask them to oppose AT&T’s plan to eliminate landlines in Illinois.
—By Karen Centowski