Illinois Allows AT&T To Cut 1.2 Million Phone Landlines

The Illinois General Assembly voted to approve a new telecommunications modernization bill backed by AT&T last weekend, with the legislative body allowing the second largest mobile service provider in the United States to cut off 1.2 million of its legacy landlines in the state. Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the decision but was ultimately overruled, though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) still has jurisdiction over the case and must approve the vote before AT&T can proceed with disconnecting its local landlines. The decision still won't affect landline phone service offered by the wireless carrier for the foreseeable future, the company's Illinois President Paul La Schiazza said on Wednesday. The latest turn of events puts AT&T one step closer to completely disconnecting its legacy landlines in the United States, with the Dallas, Texas-based telecom giant already being able to pass similar legislation in 18 other states. The only remaining state in which the company is offering a traditional telephone service and is still unable to obtain formal approval to get out of that obligation is California.

AT&T claims that disconnecting its legacy landlines is a necessity, with the majority of its user base transitioning to Internet-enabled phone service and the firm claiming that it's currently losing approximately 5,000 landline customers in Illinois on a weekly basis. Not even every tenth household in the state is currently using the company's traditional telephone service and the number of those that do is bound to be even smaller by the time AT&T eventually disconnects its landlines, the telecom giant claims. No specific timeline for that effort has yet been provided by the company that so far only estimated the transition could take years, presumably not accounting for the period of waiting for the FCC's approval of the move. The federal telecommunications regulator is unlikely to stand in the way of AT&T's plans, most industry watchers agree.

Opponents of the change claim that AT&T is neglecting the state's elderly and poor population, with those demographics still being reliant on traditional telephone landlines. A number of local organizations like the Citizens Utility Board are still planning to fight the move and all consumers who feel threatened by the decision can submit their complaints to the Illinois Commerce Commission. An update on the situation is expected to follow later this year.

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