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Concerns Over AT&T’s Efforts To End Landline Phone Service

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Sonora, CA — Landline phone service could soon mostly be a thing of the past if a request by AT&T is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Specifically, AT&T is asking to end its designation as a “Carrier of Last Resort,” which requires that it provide landline telephone service throughout its coverage area, including the Mother Lode.

A request for the change has been made to the CPUC, and a public comment period is underway that will continue through March. AT&T cites falling demand for landlines, the rising costs to maintain the traditional copper wiring, and a desire to instead invest the money on expanding broadband and cell phone services.

It is of notable concern for mountainous communities, like the Mother Lode, where cell phone service is spotty in areas. The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will vote on sending a letter to the CPUC at next week’s meeting, listing concerns.

Tuolumne County’s Project Manager for IT, Len De Groot, notes that the county believes the current service and infrastructure is not sufficient to support the change, especially in times of emergencies. In addition, adoption rates of mobile phones among elderly populations are low, which could put them at risk.

AT&T has stated it will not end landline service in areas where there is no cell service, but there would be no legal requirements on the books, to make sure it is carried through (like the current Carrier of Last Resort designation).

The map shows where AT&T is proposing to end its Carrier of Last Resort status initially during a first phase, and the violet is where it would end down the road, at a future date.

More information about the plan, the comment process, and public meetings, can be found here.