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Legislation could hang up on landline service

Brock A. Stein | 5/11/2017, 12:01 a.m.
Two bills working their way through both houses of the Illinois State legislature could mean the end of traditional landline ...

Two bills working their way through both houses of the Illinois State legislature could mean the end of traditional landline phone service for residents around the state.

Illinois Senate Bill 1381 and House Bill 2691 both would allow service providers like AT&T to discontinue traditional landline phone service for customers who still have it.

That is a dwindling number according to figures from AT&T which has just over 1 million landline business and residential landline phone customers left and is losing about 5,000 of them per week.

Many consumers are either dropping the home phone to go completely wireless with their cellular service or have a home phone that connects via the internet that they get through their cable or internet service provider.

Either way, providers of landline phone service through copper wire connected to a home argue that the shrinking customer base and upkeep on the old infrastructure are unsustainable.

AT&T Illinois president Paul La Schiazza has said that only about 18% of the company's Illinois customers still have landline service and that the money being used to maintain the copper wire network would be better served by investing in a system that can carry both voice, data and video signals to

homes.

Opponents of the change including AARP of Illinois and the Citizen's Utility Board cite the need to maintain the service for seniors and low-income customers as it serves as the most low-cost means of keeping them connected.

Julie Vahling, associate state director of AARP of Illinois recently called landline service a "basic necessity" for those 65 years and older and called for a "thorough transition plan" before phasing out the service.

Bryan McDaniel, Director of Government Affairs for the Citizen's Utility Board also cited frequent cellular and internet outages which can knock out access to 911 services for those using cell phones or VOIP phone lines. He also noted the better accuracy of 911 calls that allow emergency responders to find an address using a land line even if the caller is unresponsive.

One of the sponsors of the senate bill, Senator Pat McGuire said that he heard concerns from the president of the AARP of Illinois and put them in contact with the sponsors of the bill. He said that the AARP was working with them to craft an amendment which he said would "address how the bill is currently written."

Other Will County state legislators who are co-sponsors of the bill include Representatives Lawrence Walsh, Jr. and Mark Batinick.