Experts say that a longstanding rule needing AT&T to offer landline services to many of the residents of Illinois might go away, but many of the watchdog agencies claim that the proposal needs more safeguards to offer protection to low income and rural customers of AT&T.
It is reported that an Illinois Senate committee offered an early OK to a bill to free AT&T from all legal obligations to offer landline coverage to the state. AT&T said that more than ninety percent of the users have abandoned landline connections in favor of internet based and wireless calling services. If the bill is passed by the full Illinois General Assembly, then the FCC would have to sign before AT&T could stop the landline service using copper lines.
AT&T has tried similar legislations in twenty-one states where they are the traditional voice service provider and said that nineteen of these states have made decisions to modernize the laws. AT&T has not yet applied for FCC approval to finish the process, said president of AT&T Illinois Paul La Schiazza. He added that AT&T needs to win relief in all the states before approaching the FCC. If they get the approval, AT&T will have to offer sixty days notice to the customers who will be affected by the move.
The rule is a part of an old system setup by the government to make sure that all are having telephone service, essentially by offering a monopoly to AT&T, La Schiazza said. The market has become more competitive now, as more and more users are turning away from landline services to wireless and broadband options that offer much more than voice calls.
“What we’re left with in Illinois is we’re not guaranteed any customers, we’re not guaranteed any return … yet we still are required to provide an old-style, voice-only telephone line to every customer in our service territory,” he said. “No competitor is required to do that. They can pick and choose whatever customers they want to serve and they can use whatever available technology that they want to.”
La Schiazza said that freeing money from their old landline service would help them to shift the money that they invest in Illinois, to new technologies that the users need to become the best among the telephone and internet providers. However, he has not said anything on how much AT&T spends annually on maintaining their landline service.