Metro-East News

AT&T shift from traditional landlines approved; needs OK from FCC

AT&T Illinois eventually may phase out traditional copper landlines as part of the legislation that reauthorized 911 funding in the state and increased the per phone line monthly surcharge customers pay.

The legislation was enacted when the General Assembly overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto over the weekend. The Illinois House voted 90-22 to override the veto, and the Illinois Senate voted 43-1.

AT&T still needs FCC approval to end landline service in its Illinois territory, a process that would take months to complete.

The Citizens Utility Board, which fought against the legislation, said it is disappointed in the legislature override.

According to CUB, there are 1.2 million business and residential customers using copper landlines.

When CUB and the AARP lobbied against the legislation it said landlines are important for 911 service.

“Not only does this legislation hurt people who depend on a landline as their most reliable link to vital services, but it also does nothing to require AT&T to improve its network,” CUB said in a statement.

CUB in its statement said it will continue to lobby to require the landline service.

Not only does this legislation hurt people who depend on a landline as their most reliable link to vital services, but it also does nothing to require AT&T to improve its network.

The Citizens Utility Board

In the override, the legislature also increased the monthly surcharge on phone bills to pay for 911 service to $1.50 from 87 cents in areas other than Chicago. The Chicago surcharge is set to increase from $3.90 to $5. The increase goes into effect on Jan. 1.

The landline portion of the legislation only applies to AT&T, and not smaller phone companies.

AT&T has said there will be no hard deadline for when landlines would go away and the legislation allows for more money into modern lines, such as fiber, VOIP, new copper and coaxial cable.

About $1 billion per year is invested by AT&T in Illinois, but 20 to 30 percent goes toward the old voice only copper lines, the phone company has said.

We value our customers, and we want to keep them. That is why AT&T is upgrading the technology for home phone service. While most customers are enjoying updated technologies today, including wireless service and modern landline service, AT&T currently continues to sell and provide traditional landline phone service to our customers.

AT&T of Illinois President Paul La Schiazza

In a statement, AT&T of Illinois President Paul La Schiazza said the process of phasing out landlines could take years.

“It’s important for our Illinois customers to know that traditional landline phone service from AT&T is not going away anytime soon,” La Schiazza said.

He said Illinois became the 20th state to enact a modern communications law, and that AT&T still provides traditional landline service to customers in all of those states.

“We value our customers, and we want to keep them,” La Schiazza said. “That is why AT&T is upgrading the technology for home phone service. While most customers are enjoying updated technologies today, including wireless service and modern landline service, AT&T currently continues to sell and provide traditional landline phone service to our customers.”

La Schiazza said the new law helps with an eventual transition to modern landlines services and wireless services more and more customers are using.

“While the timetable for that transition is undetermined at this time, it could take a number of years,” La Schiazza said.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

Declining traditional landline service

Percentage of Illinois households with the “plain old telephone line service.”

  • 1996 – 99 percent
  • 1998 – 95 percent
  • 2000 – 91 percent
  • 2002 – 72 percent
  • 2004 – 66 percent
  • 2006 – 64 percent
  • 2008 – 55 percent
  • 2010 – 40 percent
  • 2012 – 40 percent
  • 2014 – 18 percent
  • 2017 – 10 percent (estimated)

Source: AT&T Illinois

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