AT&T denies bill would cut lifelines to seniors
If you take away telephone landlines, you take away lifelines for many senior citizens, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) argued recently regarding proposed legislation that would allow telecom companies to reallocate landline resources.
The Illinois chapter of the AARP and other consumer advocates said the legislation would let companies like AT&T take away resources from landline telephone infrastructure to move toward more modern types of data and voice services.
However, AT&T spokesman Eric Robinson told the Chicago City Wire that senior citizens have nothing to worry about.
“This isn’t easing of landline investments,” Robinson said. “A modern communications law is a policy change to allow more investment to go to modern wired landlines and modern wireless services -- the services about 90 percent of households in AT&T territory already switched to. It will create jobs, bring more high-speed internet and stronger wireless services, and it will increase customer access to the next generation of 911 service.”
Robinson provided a map showing that in AT&T-served Chicago metro areas, including the majority of McHenry, Kendall and Kankakee counties, only about 10 percent of households still rely solely on landlines.
While traditional landlines connected to household fiber-optic jacks might be on their way to obsolescence, Robinson said the modern voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) landlines remain a part of AT&T services.
“Modern land lines are not going away,” Robinson said. “They're here to stay.”
Robinson said modern services help with medical monitoring and enable seniors to choose internet access options to connect to family and friends, grandchildren, medical professionals and emergency responders through the VoIP landline connections.
“Modern technologies are allowing seniors to age in their own homes,” Robinson said.
In an April 20 statement, AT&T Illinois President Paul La Schiazza also responded to what he called a “mischaracterization” of the Illinois telecommunications bill.
“Any claim by our opponents implying that home phone service is going away is absolutely false,” La Schiazza said. “Home phone service isn’t going away, it’s getting better … 19 of 21 states where AT&T is the phone provider already passed modern communications laws. Illinois has fallen behind, but it can catch up this year.”