AARP Illinois and consumer-rights groups in the state say they oppose legislation that would allow AT&T to divert its resources away from landlines.
The legislation would permit the utility giant to free itself from a legal obligation to provide landline service in areas with old technology. AT&T officials said almost 90 percent of customers have gotten rid of landlines in favor of wireless technology or internet-based communication.
AARP Illinois associate state director Andre Jordan said reliable phone service is a basic necessity for all individuals and that cutting some services could be disastrous.
"For older residents, telephone services are critical to maintain social contact, preserve their health and safety, and summon emergency assistance," Jordan said. "In fact, individuals 65 and older are more likely than any other age group to have and rely on home telephone service."
Citizens Utility Board spokesman Bryan McDaniel said easing the landline requirement was "too quick and too soon."
"First of all, there are no promises in this legislation to invest anywhere. This legislation is more about disinvestment than it is about investment," McDaniel said. "They also have talked about their wireless home phone, which works on cellphone tower technology. Inside of a structure, you could have real problems getting signals. You've always got to read the fine print with these guys, it's just the type of business they're in."
AT&T Illinois President Paul La Schiazza said in a statement that the implication that home phone service is going away "is absolutely false." He said AT&T wants to improve the technology customers use for voice calling service from old service to modern landlines and wireless.