Perceiving the growing use of internet-based phone service among Californians, the major US network carrier AT&T is planning to eliminate landline phones and has even filed a request for the same to the state lawmakers.
The carrier says, “Wireless and Internet-based voice services are giving Californians enhanced phone services at a better price than traditional copper wire landlines, and it’s time for the state to move into the 21st century.”
However, the consumer advocates argue legislation before the Assembly would force many seniors and rural Californians to give up the reliable landlines they want to keep. The dispute demonstrates the challenges of how to regulate a changing telecom industry under federal and state laws & regulations written for what many consider to be an outdated and inefficient network of copper landlines. “It’s a decision that the state needs to make about the future of infrastructure in California,” said Mike Montgomery, executive director of CAL innovates. “Whether we’re talking about roads, bridges, tunnels, schools or copper telephone networks, we really need to figure out how to take this step toward the 21st century.” According to AT&T, “85 percent of households in California no longer have a conventional landline phone from a traditional provider.”
But, then also AT&T is required by state law to maintain and operate its 600 central switching offices across California as if the lines were being used at 100 percent capacity. “Some of those offices are running at just 2 percent, wasting massive amounts of energy and water to cool equipment and human resources to run them,” said Ken McNeely, president of AT&T California. “That is money that could be spent on the more efficient, virtual and software-controlled Internet services that the majority of Californians use”, he added. “Every dollar a company spends on old technology is a dollar it can’t spend on new technology,” McNeely further added.
“This bill will allow us to update and modernize our IT infrastructure and ultimately provide, faster, cheaper, more reliable and more environmentally friendly service to millions of Californians,” he said.
While the consumer groups aren’t convinced that they agree with AT&T. They say that the network carrier wants to abandon its legal obligation to maintain landlines at the expense of small businesses, rural customers and public safety. As many businesses rely on landlines for alarm monitoring and to run credit card transactions, so they do not want AT&T to decommission its landline service.