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California Considers Cutting Cord on Landline Service

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016   

California lawmakers are considering a bill to cut the cord on landline telephone service at a hearing today before the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.

Assembly Bill 2395 would permit AT&T to stop maintaining the copper-wire landline service in California in 2020, except in areas that have no alternative to cell phone or Voice Over Internet Protocol service.

Josh Hart, a consumer advocate who founded a group to fight smart meters in homes, said landlines are a crucial part of the state's infrastructure and are less vulnerable than cell phones.

"They depend on the electric grid, and when that goes down there's no cell service," he said. "So there needs to be robust, reliable high-quality landline service available as a choice for Californians."

AT&T said its cell and VOIP services are more advanced and cost less than landlines, and has estimated that only 15 percent of households in the state maintain a landline. Advocates say that still amounts to about 10 million Californians.

Blanca Castro, manager for advocacy at AARP California, said her organization opposes the replacement of publicly switched telephone networks because many people, especially seniors, can't use cell phones or aren't comfortable with the technology.

"People's landlines are their lifeline," she said, "because of disability, not being able to read the numbers on a cell phone and needing to have big keyboards on landlines."

Last summer, the Federal Communications Commission passed a rule allowing phone companies to phase out landlines but required them to give homeowners and businesses three months' and six months' notice, respectively.

The text of AB 2395 is online at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.


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