AT&T and Verizon are actively trying to kill off cities landlines

by: William Neilson JrApril 10, 2014

landline phone Daniel Oines

Over the last few years, AT&T and Verizon have been going state to state trying to get any and all consumer protections laws stripped on DSL and landlines in preparation of hanging up on users they don’t want to upgrade. With Verizon and AT&T having killed off regulatory oversight in many states, we should not expect anything to be done about it, despite both companies being given billions in subsidies over the years to get these very same users online.

Verizon and AT&T pitch this type of move as some sort of transition into the future in which consumers will get improved networks. AT&T and Verizon have only one goal in this so-called transition and that is to kick off all DSL and POTS users and force them onto another fixed-line choice of cable broadband or heavily capped wireless.

This move ends up allowing AT&T and Verizon to save billions all the while skirting consumer protection laws put in place for this type of situation. Consumers are therefore stuck between paying more for cable broadband (if you can get it), or signing up for expensive wireless with low data caps (if you can get it).

AT&T and Verizon have various reasons for wanting their DSL services to die off, including the fact that newer LTE technology is cheaper to deploy in rural areas and easier to keep upgraded. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam recently told investors:

“Every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam recently told attendees of an investor conference. “We are going to just take it out of service. Areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got LTE built that will handle all of those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there.”

Verizon wants these rural areas to end their DSL plans and instead sell those users LTE services with a high price point ($15 per gigabyte overages). Verizon then hopes to sell those users data-eating video services via their Redbox streaming video joint venture. In some cases, Verizon simply refuses to fix broken landline issues.

Rural users most likely to suffer

Landline. Florian Plag

Currently in Alabama, some are just starting to realize the actual effects that are about to come from the so-called AT&T transition. As the Wall Street Journal reports, AT&T customers may eventually have to switch to wireless or high-speed service while new customers wouldn’t be allowed to sign up for traditional, landline-based service at all. But Carbon Hill City Clerk Janice Pendley says some people in the former mining town are apprehensive:

“Some of them like their landline, and they like it just the way it is,” she says.

AT&T says no one will lose old-fashioned phone service until the carrier proves it can provide those customers with an alternative. AT&T is seeking approval to kill off any new customers in Carbon Hill and a section of Delray Beach, Fla., to sign up for traditional, landline-based service.

Yet, AT&T comes off as laughably unprepared for this initial challenge. In Carbon Hill, 4% of their residential customers are too far from the center of the city and therefore can’t get the broadband service being offered by AT&T. How does AT&T plan on dealing with this? We don’t know….they won’t tell us.

In Delray Beach, over 50% of the population is over 65 years old. How is AT&T going to deal with this since these people are generally the last group to make technological changes? Again, we have no idea as AT&T won’t tell us.

Verizon and AT&T say keeping the old technology is going to cost them billions of dollars a year, even as more customers abandon it. AT&T says the transition will create faster, cheaper networks that speed creation of improved high-definition voice and video calling. As we saw with Verizon after Hurricane Sandy, terminating POTS and DSL services and then just hoping wireless fills the gaps can have terrible drawbacks:

(Bill Wayland) wants to keep the landline phone in his Chesterfield Township home. He can’t get service on his cell phone in the workshop in his basement and said he often loses calls when he uses his cell phone in his office. His 21-year-old disabled son doesn’t have the fine motor skills to use a cell phone, and his security alarm is wired to his landline.

If Verizon and AT&T want to ditch their obligations of landlines after receiving billions and billions of subsidies from taxpayers for those very landlines, why not make these companies actually put their promises of fantastic wireless in writing and force them to stick the promises? Or is that too much to ask?

  • On a Clear Day

    It would appear that Verizon and AT&T want to have it both ways – they want to take advantage of the largess the public trust bestowed upon them in the past by allowing them near – if not total – monopolies for the “sake of the public good”, and also to be able to operate with near impunity from responsibility when shepherding the millions of us who are then made subject and beholding to their corporate wills.

    It don’t works dat way – if you will take advantage of feeding at the public trough for the advantages attendant therefrom – you have a responsibility to first make sure you have fully accommodated the needs of the public – even the least thereof – who putting it bluntly – many of whom are too old, poor, infirm or non compos mentis to be able to for some odd reason to be enamored of the glitz and glitter of our exciting 24/7 digital world; with fast as lighting 4G connectivity to anything and everything that you may or may not need to know and/or would have been better off never knowing.

    I have no problem with them phasing out what is obviously becoming dated technology that is becoming a dross due to the fact it is simply not being used by enough people to make it financially feasible from a capitalistic, profit making angle – I am 100 percent in favor of always allowing capitalism and the free market to rule the day – otherwise, we end up with the kind of fiasco Obama has precipitated and steadfastly is doing his and his party’s damndest to inflict upon America as they throw every wrench they can into the engine of capitalism in their deliberate attempt to destroy it.

    But, there is a way – “Where there’s a will there is a way” – to do this, so that AT&T and Verizon can accomplish what actually does need to be done – kill a dying quickly becoming more defunct by the day, useless technology without creating orphans with no where to go or understanding of what has happened to them – with the fear – real fear – that such causing in people whose ability to think clearly because of age or whatever – is compromised and whom consequently need to have their worlds kept as unchanging in certain areas as possible.

    I am they can do it; the question is – do they truly care enough to actually do it right?

  • Clint Weiss

    typical capitalist behavior… lean on state granted monopolies and subsidies for profits, privatize gains and socialize losses/investment. the so-called ‘invisible hand’ is all to often visible in the form of charters/tax breaks/legal immunities/subsidization/IP laws, but hey those investors are ‘hard working people’.

    here’s an idea… lets expand the notions of consumer owned co-ops more widely to all public utilities (and for that matter health insurance), so that consumers collectively own their utilities and are not profited off of (beyond basic infrastructure/maintenance/employee costs) and actually have a real say in the terms and breadth of coverage. the best money the federal gov’t ever spent was in the creation and spin off of the not-for-profit rural telephone/electric co-ops, if for no other reasons than b/c they are economically sustainable/ethical and in the hands of those that use them.

    sure, the vast majority of dems and reps (licking their capitalist overlords’ boots) wouldn’t like it, but enough of a movement towards this (even at local levels) would make such innovation/adjustment of the markets/monopolies hard to avoid.

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