Today, AARP and CUB joined forces to launch the Save Our Service (SOS) campaign to block an expected push by big phone companies to completely deregulate local phone service and kill landlines in Illinois.
Illinois has more than 1 million landlines in Illinois, and some of our most vulnerable citizens rely on them as the most affordable and reliable lifeline to family employment opportunities, and key services such as 911, home security systems, and pacemaker monitoring.
Today, the SOS campaign held news conferences in Chicago, Decatur, Champaign, Peoria, Springfield and Rockford. We also opened SaveOurPhoneService.com, an online center that allows consumers to send a message asking state legislators to defend traditional home phone service.
“Landlines are lifelines for countless older Illinoisans and their families,” AARP Communications Director Gerardo Cardenas said in a Chicago news conference “We urge policymakers in Springfield to ensure consumers have access to quality, affordable, reliable landlines, regardless of where they live.”
“Smartphones are wonderful technology, but they don’t come cheap and anybody who has traveled across Illinois knows they’re not always reliable,” added CUB Executive Director David Kolata. “Traditional home phone service is the most affordable, reliable option for millions of people and we shouldn’t take away that choice.” Big Telecom’s to-do list includes:
Scrapping the “Obligation to Serve” requirement. This mandates companies provide traditional home phone service throughout Illinois. Lifting it would mean top local phone companies, such as AT&T and Frontier, could abandon areas they deem “unprofitable” or force customers onto calling options that tend to be less reliable and more expensive.
Killing “Safe Harbor” calling plans. Currently, Illinois mandates that AT&T offer the no-frills “Consumer’s Choice” plans, which range from about $3 to $20 per month and were originally created by CUB under a legal settlement with AT&T. Designed to match the way most callers use the phone, these plans are under a price freeze mandated by the General Assembly and have saved Illinois consumers an estimated $10 million a year.
AT&T, which made $18 billion in 2013, has led the charge in Illinois for phone deregulation. Nationally, the phone industry has pushed a business model that would allow it to stop providing landline service, leaving customers with substitutes that tend to be more expensive and less reliable, such as AT&T’s computer-based U-Verse or wireless alternatives.
But forcing consumers to use computer-based or wireless substitutes as their primary home phones could subject them to higher bills and service degradation that still plague such options, including lack of service in extended power outages, checkered reception, dropped calls and high connection charges (up to $199 for computer-based phones).