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Supervisors And Emergency Officials Upset Over AT&T’s Landline Proposal

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Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission to oppose AT&T’s request to no longer be a Carrier of Last Resort.

We reported earlier that the designation comes with the requirement to provide landline phone service to its customer area across the state, including around the Mother Lode. AT&T cites that the copper lines are expensive to maintain and the utility would rather put the money into internet and cell infrastructure expansion.

At today’s board meeting, Sheriff Bill Pooley stated, “We talk about public safety, and if AT&T is allowed to go down this road, and remove the copper lines, it could be devastating in the event of an emergency. As you well know, during fires and storms, we have had a number of cell towers go down. They are unreliable. Until they come up with, and demonstrate, that they have a reliable solution to this, I don’t think they should be allowed to remove the copper wires.”

Office of Emergency Services Assistant Director Dore Bietz added that landlines are one of the layers that officials use to communicate with the public during emergencies. An estimated 12,000 people are signed up for Everbridge alerts to landline phone numbers.

There was also talk about creating a local committee to look at solutions. Some of the supervisors also expressed concerns over the lack of communication AT&T provides when questions are raised about emergency response efforts.

The board voted 4-0 to send a correspondence letter to the CPUC, noting that mobile service and broadband infrastructure are inadequate, there is low mobile phone adoption among the elderly population, and the proposed change creates significant risk during times of emergency.

The public comment period will continue into next month and the CPUC will review the item later this year.