Today, AARP, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and CUB joined forces to launch the Save Our Service (SOS) campaign to block AT&T-backed legislation that would hang up on Illinois’ most vulnerable phone customers.
Consumer advocates urged Illinoisans to visit SaveOurPhoneService.com to send messages to the General Assembly against AT&T’s deregulation bills, Senate Bill 1381/House Bill 2691. Consumers also can call a special hotline, at 1-844-220-5552, to talk to their legislators.
AT&T has 1.2 million business and residential landlines in Illinois, and some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens rely on them as the most affordable and reliable lifeline to vital services, such as 911 and medical monitoring.
“Our fear is that, what AT&T really wants to do is push consumers onto phone options that tend to be more expensive and tend to be less reliable,” CUB Director of Communications Jim Chilsen said. (Read CUB’s new release on the legislation.)
With Illinois’ Telecommunications Act under review and set to expire July 1, AT&T’s bills would:
- Abolish the state requirement that AT&T serve traditional landline customers. That authority would be ceded to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Illinois would be stripped of any meaningful oversight to protect AT&T’s 1.2 million business and residential landline customers from inferior service.
- Abolish low-cost calling plans. The General Assembly mandates that AT&T offer three “Consumer’s Choice” plans, which were created by CUB under a legal settlement. Illinois’ best local phone deals, which cost about $3 to $20 a month, have saved callers millions of dollars, and are under a state-mandated price freeze.
AT&T, which made $13 billion in 2016, has led the charge in Illinois for phone deregulation. Nationally, the phone industry has pushed a business model that would allow it to stop providing landline service, leaving customers with substitutes that tend to be more expensive and less reliable, such as AT&T’s computer-based U-Verse or wireless alternatives.
But forcing consumers to use computer-based or wireless substitutes as their primary home phones could subject them to higher bills and service degradation that still plague such options, including lack of service in extended power outages, checkered reception, dropped calls and high connection charges (up to $199 for computer-based phones).