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The local phone plans that AT&T just doesn’t like

Read CUB Executive Director David Kolata’s statement on the General Assembly’s passage of a revised Illinois Telecommunications Act over the weekend.

After a months-long Save Our Service (SOS) Campaign fighting Big Telecom, the revisions were a mixed bag for consumer advocates. CUB was glad that big phone companies failed in their fight to kill landline service for consumers who need it most–but they succeeded in severely limiting access to one of the best phone deals in Illinois: The Consumer’s Choice plans.

Under the revised Telecom Act, current Consumer’s Choice customers will be allowed to stay on the plans for at least until July 1, 2017. (We’ll have to fight to keep them on the plans two years from now.) Going forward, low-income residents of Illinois will be the only new customers allowed to sign up for the plans.

The Consumer’s Choice plans were created by CUB under a legal settlement with AT&T back in 2006. CUB estimates that these low-cost, no-frills plans, which are designed the way most people use the phone, could be saving consumers some $10 million a year.

AT&T must have disliked the plans, which were a bargain at $3 to $20 per month. The phone giant didn’t seem to do a very good job marketing them. Many consumers reported getting inaccurate information about the offers–even being told that AT&T didn’t sell them.

“CUB strongly believes that AT&T, which makes billions of dollars in profits each year, can thrive under strong consumer protections, including the Consumer’s Choice plans,” Kolata said. “By ending these plans, AT&T is essentially hanging up on some of Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.”

Now the goal is to get as many landline customers as possible on the Consumer’s Choice plans.