Consumers Criticize AT&T for Bid to Abolish Landlines

By Kimberly Koerth Comments
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AT&T and other carriers still have an uphill battle convincing some customers that a plan to convert to all-IP networks – doing away with traditional landlines in the process – is a good idea.

AT&T's plan is to make the conversion by 2020, meaning that customers would either have to rely on wireless phones or a combination of wireless and IP. It's a move that some smaller competitors and partners alike have criticized for a potential lack of regulation and market disruption. Now consumers are voicing their own complaints about the impact the transition could have on them.

“I strongly oppose the move from landlines to wireless technology," Mary Ann Hardziej wrote in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, quoted in the Wall Street Journal. “I utilize a landline phone and I do not feel I should be forced to use wireless or U-verse for telecommunication."

Consumers like Hardziej have cited concerns about how technology such as 911 emergency-response systems, burglar alarms and pacemakers will operate with IP technology. Additionally, it is difficult to reach all rural consumers with broadband service due to how far apart they live. And many consumers who still use landlines are older adults, the age group slowest and least willing to adopt new technology.

AT&T says it will address all of these concerns and provide a means of access for all consumers. Keeping the old network running costs billions of dollars, AT&T said, and stalls technological progress and innovation. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. households already have done away with their traditional landlines.

Total implementation of AT&T's proposed changes still is far out on the horizon; first, new consumers would be stopped from signing up for landline service, and then existing consumers would be forced to switch.

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