February 24, 2024

A proposal by telecommunications large AT&T to withdraw landline service from many of the Bay Space has sparked widespread worry amongst residents, lots of whom reside the place cell service is spotty, energy outages are frequent and shedding connectivity is “very scary.”

Oakland senior Carla Vinciguerra lives in a three-story dwelling with a landline on every flooring. If she suffered a medical emergency, and her cellphone have been on a distinct flooring, she might probably crawl to a landline, she mentioned, however with out that choice, she would don’t have any strategy to summon assist.

“I simply needed to name the ambulance final September as a result of I couldn’t arise,” Vinciguerra mentioned. “I ended up in emergency after which within the hospital.”

Vinciguerra is amongst greater than 2,000 individuals who have submitted feedback to the California Public Utilities Fee, which could have the ultimate say, over AT&T’s proposal to cease working landlines within the Bay Space and far of the state, leaving solely cellphone and internet-based voice-communication companies that it and different firms present.

Due to its earlier monopoly standing and state regulation requiring voice communications for all who need them, AT&T is for giant areas of California the “service of final resort” — the utility required to supply telephone service to anybody wanting it in its service space. In its proposal to the utilities fee to flee that obligation, the corporate mentioned it’s searching for to cease landline service solely in areas “the place there’s a demonstrated voice different.”

Practically all these commenting mentioned they opposed the plan, citing a number of issues, from medical crises to lack of communications throughout earthquakes, fires, floods and storms as a result of cellphone infrastructure is broken or energy outages lower off web service.

“The implications are life threatening,” mentioned Regina Costa, telecommunications coverage director for shopper group The Utility Reform Community. A whole lot of hundreds of households within the Bay Space and thousands and thousands round California would lose landline service if the fee approves AT&T’s proposal, Costa estimated. AT&T declined to say what number of households within the Bay Space or California can be affected.

Lots of the feedback to the fee got here from these in rural areas, the place cell and web service could also be spotty or non-existent, energy outages are more and more widespread from PG&E fire-prevention shutdowns, wildfires are more and more massive and frequent, storm harm could be catastrophic, and assist is usually distant.

AT&T mentioned in an announcement that fewer than 7% of households in its territory use conventional landlines, “and a large number of these households even have alternate options accessible the place they reside.”

With out dependable cell service at Jennie Dusheck’s dwelling within the Santa Cruz Mountains, her major line is her landline telephone. In her high-fire-risk neighborhood within the Santa Cruz Mountains, the place web is unreliable, energy outages are frequent and mudslides typically happen, not having a landline is “very scary” says Dusheck. (Dai Sugano/Bay Space Information Group) 

In its proposal to the utilities fee, AT&T mentioned its landline companies have been “quick turning into a historic curiosity” and serve no “legitimate public goal.” Making the corporate hold providing the companies offers its rivals a bonus, AT&T mentioned.

“Traders want corporations that may dedicate their sources to the perfect new expertise, not ones that must spend wastefully on a expertise for which demand has largely died,” AT&T, valued at $126 billion within the inventory market, mentioned within the proposal.

AT&T described landline service as duplicative to its wi-fi and fiber-based web choices that the corporate says it might broaden sooner if it didn’t must expend cash and sources to assist landlines.

“When fires, earthquakes, floods or different disasters strike, Californians depend on cell phones and (web) networks to entry crucial info, household and first responders,” AT&T’s assertion mentioned.

However the declare that cell telephones, web and “VoIP” internet-phone service can safely substitute landlines all through AT&T’s service space is “positively not true,” mentioned California Meeting Member Gail Pellerin, a Democrat representing elements of San Jose and the South Bay, Los Gatos and areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

In a Feb. 1 letter to the utilities fee, Pellerin wrote that current devastating pure disasters together with landslides and the 2020 CZU fires within the Santa Cruz Mountains “have repeatedly underscored the indispensable position of landline companies.

“Throughout such crises, when energy outages are prevalent and mobile and VoIP companies are unreliable, landlines have remained the only technique of communication for emergency companies, medical consultations, and disaster-management efforts.”

Exterior her dwelling between Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz on Wednesday, Jennie Dusheck was watching crews noticed up and haul away an enormous madrone tree that Sunday’s violent windstorm felled throughout her driveway. The tree blocked her from driving away from her dwelling in a high-fire-risk neighborhood with out cell service the place web is unreliable, energy outages are frequent and mudslides typically happen.

AT&T’s proposal, mentioned freelance science author Dusheck, 69, is “very scary.”

Jennie Dusheck holds her landline telephone that she has saved as a backup in case of emergency on Feb. 6, 2024. In her high-fire-risk neighborhood within the Santa Cruz Mountains, the place web and cell service are unreliable, energy outages are frequent and mudslides typically happen, not having a landline is “very scary” says Dusheck. (Dai Sugano/Bay Space Information Group) 
Jennie Dusheck’s dwelling on Feb. 6, 2024. (Dai Sugano/Bay Space Information Group) 

Former Metropolis of San Jose employee Jaime Saldivar, 70, mentioned his landline has served as his most dependable communications software, in contrast to cell and web service. “Energy traces go down, this goes down, that goes down,” Saldivar mentioned. If somebody in his multi-generational dwelling had a well being emergency when cell service and web have been out and he not had his landline, “it may very well be crucial,” he mentioned.

Pellerin worries about such conditions on a broader scale. “I’d hate to study that we made a mistake,” she mentioned, “by getting in a state of affairs that we’re in an emergency and we lose individuals’s lives that would’ve been averted by conserving a connection for them to name in for emergency companies.”

The utilities fee mentioned it might approve or deny AT&T’s proposal as quickly as this fall. Underneath the corporate’s proposal, it might start withdrawing landline service six months after approval. In-person public hearings on the proposal are scheduled for this month and subsequent in Ukiah and Indio. Two digital hearings are set for March 19, by way of webcast at adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc and telephone at 1-800-857-1917, passcode 6032788#.