‘What Would I Do?': Illinois Residents Worry AT&T Could Pull Plug on Landlines

Some Illinois residents fear their home phone service might go away permanently if AT&T ceases to provide traditional landline service by lobbying to change state law.

The telecommunications provider wants to change that mandatory requirement in Illinois, which the Citizens Utility Board says could affect more than a million Illinois residents and businesses that still use landline service. Some residents, like Michele Charous and Carol Kolen, said they have joined CUB and its "Save Our Service Campaign."

“What would I do?" asks Charous. "How would I talk to my friends?”

"The Illinois Telecom Act is up for review in the 2017 legislative session, and AT&T is pushing two deregulation bills—Senate Bill 1381 and House Bill 2691," says the Citizen's Utility Board website. "The bills would open the door for the company to end traditional home phone service in Illinois and push consumers onto less affordable and reliable alternatives."

AT&T says more than 90 percent of households have either switched to modern internet based home phone service or wireless service.

And even though they say those numbers ring true, the telecommunications giant says that by law in Illinois, it still has to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into keeping voice-only landlines up and running in the state.

“We are not at the point we can guarantee that this is going to work all the time,” says Kolen.

“I would be just isolated because how would I be able to talk anybody if the battery died or I forgot to charge it what would I do,” Charous says.

The Citizens Utility Board says many in Illinois, like Kolen and Charous, rely on landlines for their communication needs.

“For a lot of people a landline is there most reliable and affordable lifeline to vital services,” said Jim Chilsen, of the Citizens Utility Board.

Paul Laschiazza, president of AT&T Illinois, says advancements in technology is driving change.

“Telecommunications in Illinois has not kept pace with how consumers communicate every single day,” Laschiazza said. "We are really investing in technology that nobody wants. AT&T’s desire is to use all that capital investment on new technology.”

But Charous feels a change in law would cause her telephone bill to go up and her phone service to suffer.

“I have affordability and with my landline I have reliability," she says.

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