Some Illinois Residents May Have to Cut Cord On Landline Phones
Illinois' Telecommunication Act expires on July 1, 2017 and AT&T is fighting for new legislation that would allow them to move away from investing in and maintaining landlines.
So, local watch dog groups are sending out an S.O.S: Save Our Service. They're urging Illinois lawmakers to stop AT&T from hanging up on customers who use traditional landlines.
"People who will suffer the most are the 1.2 million landlines, small businesses and residential consumers that still have these and still choose them," said Bryan McDaniel of the Citizens Utility Board. "It may not be the future, but it's still the present."
AT&T says Illinois is behind the curve, after 19 of the 21 states in their territory have already adopted, what they call, a more modern era of communication.
"It's a simple policy change that would allow us to allocate the dollars that we invest in our wired and wireless networks 100 percent into modern technologies that customers actually want," says Paul La Schiazza, AT&T Illinois President.
AT&T says 90 percent of households they serve have already ditched landline service, but the Citizens Utility Board says that 10 percent still matters, especially in emergency situations.
"An AT&T wireless 9-1-1 outage, where people in 9 states could not call 9-1-1 for hours," said McDaniel, who says this happened just a couple weeks ago. "This has happened other times with wireless carriers. This wasn't the first time this has ever happened."
AARP member Teresa Jones says her daughter is hearing impaired and cell phones don't always cater to her disability.
"When she's home and someone calls the phone is amplified," Jones said. "As well as there's like a teleprompter, so she can look at it and she can see what someone is saying if she can't hear them properly, she can at least look down at the prompter and see what they're saying."
That's why local watchdog groups are asking those in Illinois to pick up their phone, wireless or not, to tell their representatives to vote "no" to leaving millions of residents disconnected.
If the legislation passes, it would apply to the most populous areas of Illinois. AT&T says there will be plenty of other options with newer and more advanced technology instead of the older style voice only phones that they say more consumers are abandoning.