Illinois surprise: AT&T and legislators eliminate landline phone service. Will Gov. Rauner sign or veto?

On May 31, Amendment 5 eliminating landlines in Illinois was introduced and added to a coal mining safety bill — SB 1839—  then voted on and passed — the same day — by both houses of the Illinois legislature. For more information on the amendments and bill sponsor Sen. Bill Cunningham (D), see below. Changes become effective on July 1, 2017 unless the Governor vetoes it.

Californians are receiving a change of service notice from AT&T that says, as of July 1, 2017, customers agree to any and all changes to their telephone service and allow any equipment to be installed on their homes by AT&T, or “your telephone service may be disconnected”…”If you don’t agree with the terms of the agreement, call us to cancel your service.”

From the Illinois Review

Thorner: Illinoisans could be forced to abandon reliable telephone landlines
by Nancy Thorner
June 5, 2017

To preserve landlines, Governor Rauner must veto SB 1839. With the passage of SB 1839 into law, Illinois residents and businesses will be stripped of their choice to have landlines.

Who will pay the price for AT&Ts aggressive push to end traditional landline service?

  • Seniors
  • Businesses
  • Working Families
  • People with health issues
  • Disabled and blind
  • Residents of rural areas
  • Individuals who want a choice

Loss of reliable 911 emergency services

Why is the loss of traditional, reliable landlines a travesty to all residents and businesses? 911 emergency services will not work during a power outage. This is critical for everyone concerned. All phone service available, including AT&T U-verse, requires electricity to operate the equipment. Even cell phones need to be charged, which is not possible during extended power outages.

Before the last hurricane in Florida, the Governor was repeating on TV and radio announcements, “Get a landline! Keep and maintain a landline.”

During Hurricane Sandy the only residents that could stay in touch with others were the ones who could use landlines.  All communication devices dependent on electricity were useless. Cell phones could not be charged and computer-based phone lines dependent on a cable modem, would not work without electricity.

Illinois may not get hurricanes, but the state has had its share of floods, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms that caused power outages.

AARP says, “Recent wireless 911 outages show that telecommunications companies have yet to offer a viable alternative for a significant number of customers. In March, for example, a wireless 911 outage hit AT&T wireless customers in 14 states for about five hours, forcing police departments to urge people to call alternative numbers in an emergency.”

AT&T motive for dismantling copper-wired landlines

AT&Ts reason for aggressively pushing legislation through the General Assembly is to release the corporation from the responsibility for maintaining copper-wired phone lines. AT&Ts agenda: Move customers to computer-based (VoIP) phone services. For the consumer this means using a high speed Internet connection through a cable modem which runs on electricity.

Citizens Utility Board says,  “AT&T, which made $13 billion in profits in 2016, wants the power to end traditional phone service and force customers to use computer-based or wireless substitutes. That could subject those customers to higher bills and unreliable service.”

No reliable alternatives to landline phone services

“AT&T claims that its 1.2 million business and residential landline customers have viable alternatives to traditional service…for many people—including seniors, low-income families and rural residents—home phone service is the most reliable, affordable lifeline to vital services such as 911, home security systems and medical monitoring devices.”

A U. S. Senator leading the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (which has jurisdiction over the FCC) writes to a constituent:

For decades, Americans have counted on the nation’s landline communications network and its reliability. Even in a time of great change in our communications networks, I agree that landline voice service is an important service. In fact, many people do not realize that wireless communications networks themselves rely upon the availability of landline communications networks to function effectively. It is critical that consumers are protected during this technological change and that new networks provide the same level of reliability as our legacy landline infrastructure. 

AT&T’s alternative, computer-based VoIP, does not provide the same level of reliability. U-verse is NOT a viable alternative. 

Professionals and businesses that require secure phone service count on landlines. Law firms, real estate offices, medical facilities, government offices, and financial institutions use landlines because they are cyber secure and not connected to the Internet. During a power outage, these businesses have to continue providing consumers with vital services. For cyber secure, uninterrupted phone service, landlines are the only viable option.

Warnings from AARP:

  • Forcing people onto alternatives, such as wireless or computer-based phone service, could subject them to higher bills, lack of service in extended power outages, spotty reception and dropped calls.
  • Landline telephone service allows residents to have reliable access to emergency services; it helps low-income families to connect with job opportunities; it helps small businesses to stay in business and connect with new opportunities and customers; and it allows older residents and residents in rural areas to stay connected to family, friends, and neighbors, as well as vital services. Furthermore, [landline telephone service] saves callers millions of dollars by having access to affordable calling plans.

CUB: “Those who depend on home phone service shouldn’t have that choice stripped away.”

Call Governor Rauner’s office: Springfield:  217 782-0244  Chicago 312 814-2121

(This contributor’s opinion does not necessarily reflect Illinois Review’s.)

– – – 

Tell Sen. Bill Cunningham how you feel about losing landlines at his event:

Coffee and Conversations

Saturday, June 17
9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
7202 W. 119th Place
Palos Heights, IL 60463

To contact Bill:


This section is repealed:

ILCS 5/13-406)
Ch. 111 2/3, par. 13-406)
scheduled to be repealed on July 1, 2017)

13-406. Abandonment of service. No telecommunications
carrier offering or providing noncompetitive telecommunications
service pursuant to a valid Certificate of Service Authority or
certificate of public convenience and necessity shall discontinue or
abandon such service once initiated until and unless it shall
demonstrate, and the Commission finds, after notice and hearing, that
such discontinuance or abandonment will not deprive customers of any
necessary or essential telecommunications service or access thereto
and is not otherwise contrary to the public interest. No
telecommunications carrier offering or providing competitive
telecommunications service shall completely discontinue or abandon
such service to an identifiable class or group of customers once
initiated except upon 60 days notice to the Commission and affected
customers. The Commission may, upon its own motion or upon complaint,
investigate the proposed discontinuance or abandonment of a
competitive telecommunications service and may, after notice and
hearing, prohibit such proposed discontinuance or abandonment if the
Commission finds that it would be contrary to the public interest. If
the Commission does not provide notice of a hearing within 60
calendar days after the notification or holds a hearing and fails to
find that the proposed discontinuation or abandonment would be
contrary to the public interest, the provider may discontinue or
abandon such service after providing at least 30 days notice to
affected customers. 

P.A. 96-927, eff. 6-15-10.)

This section is repealed:

ILCS 5/13-102)
Ch. 111 2/3, par. 13-102)
scheduled to be repealed on July 1, 2017)

13-102. Findings. With respect to telecommunications
services, as herein defined, the General Assembly finds
universally available and widely affordable telecommunications
services are essential to the health, welfare and prosperity of all
Illinois citizens;
federal regulatory and judicial rulings in the 1980s caused a
restructuring of the telecommunications industry and opened some
aspects of the industry to competitive entry, thereby necessitating
revision of State telecommunications regulatory policies and
revisions in telecommunications regulatory policies and practices in
Illinois beginning in the mid-1980s brought the benefits of
competition to consumers in many telecommunications markets, but not
in local exchange telecommunications service markets;
the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 established the goal of
opening all telecommunications service markets to competition and
accords to the states the responsibility to establish and enforce
policies necessary to attain that goal;
it is in the immediate interest of the People of the State of
Illinois for the State to exercise its rights within the new
framework of federal telecommunications policy to ensure that the
economic benefits of competition in all telecommunications service
markets are realized as effectively as possible;
the competitive offering of all telecommunications services will
increase innovation and efficiency in the provision of
telecommunications services and may lead to reduced prices for
consumers, increased investment in communications infrastructure, the
creation of new jobs, and the attraction of new businesses to
Illinois; and
protection of the public interest requires changes in the regulation
of telecommunications carriers and services to ensure, to the maximum
feasible extent, the reasonable and timely development of effective
competition in all telecommunications service markets.
P.A. 90-185, eff. 7-23-97.)

This section is repealed:

ILCS 5/13-103)
Ch. 111 2/3, par. 13-103)
    (Section scheduled to be repealed on July 1, 2017) 
    Sec. 13-103. Policy. Consistent with its findings, the General
Assembly declares that it is the policy of the State of Illinois
telecommunications services should be available to all Illinois
citizens at just, reasonable, and affordable rates and that such
services should be provided as widely and economically as possible in
sufficient variety, quality, quantity and reliability to satisfy the
public interest;
consistent with the protection of consumers of telecommunications
services and the furtherance of other public interest goals,
competition in all telecommunications service markets should be
pursued as a substitute for regulation in determining the variety,
quality and price of telecommunications services and that the
economic burdens of regulation should be reduced to the extent
possible consistent with the furtherance of market competition and
protection of the public interest;
all necessary and appropriate modifications to State regulation of
telecommunications carriers and services should be implemented
without unnecessary disruption to the telecommunications
infrastructure system or to consumers of telecommunications services
and that it is necessary and appropriate to establish rules to
encourage and ensure orderly transitions in the development of
markets for all telecommunications services;
the consumers of telecommunications services and facilities provided
by persons or companies subject to regulation pursuant to this Act
and Article should be required to pay only reasonable and
non-discriminatory rates or charges and that in no case should rates
or charges for non-competitive telecommunications services include
any portion of the cost of providing competitive telecommunications
services, as defined in Section 13-209, or the cost of any
nonregulated activities;
the regulatory policies and procedures provided in this Article are
established in recognition of the changing nature of the
telecommunications industry and therefore should be subject to
systematic legislative review to ensure that the public benefits
intended to result from such policies and procedures are fully
realized; and
development of and prudent investment in advanced telecommunications
services and networks that foster economic development of the State
should be encouraged through the implementation and enforcement of
policies that promote effective and sustained competition in all
telecommunications service markets.
P.A. 90-185, eff. 7-23-97.)

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