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CUB urges governor to veto AT&T dereg bill

AT&T has passed its deregulation bill in the Illinois General Assembly, threatening the end of landline service for customers who need it for a reliable connection to 911 and other vital services. Now, CUB is turning its attention to Gov. Bruce Rauner and asking him to veto the legislation.

CUB said in a statement on Thursday: “We’re disappointed but we’re not giving up. We urge the governor to veto this legislation.”

Senate Bill 1839 strips the Illinois Telecommunications Act of key consumer protections. It allows AT&T to stop offering traditional landline phone service once the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gives final approval for such a transition. The legislation also increases phone rates by allowing AT&T to eliminate the low-cost “Consumer’s Choice” local calling plans.

CUB, AARP Illinois, and Illinois PIRG argued that a significant number of people (AT&T has 1.2 million landline customers in Illinois) need traditional landlines for a reliable connection to 911, medical monitoring services and home security systems.

While AT&T claimed that serving these customers inhibited the phone giant from modernizing its network–despite $58 billion in profits over the last five years–the legislation it pushed does nothing to require AT&T to do any upgrades.

Even if you don’t own a landline, you should oppose this legislation. By decimating the Illinois Telecom Act, it strips Illinois of key authority to push AT&T to make other telecom-related improvements—like faster broadband.

“This bill allows AT&T and the federal government to dictate our telecom future, and that’s bad news for all Illinois consumers, from people who need landlines to smartphone users,” CUB said.

Over the last few months, we have been getting calls from consumers understandably worried about losing their landlines. Even though the legislation has passed the Illinois General Assembly, the end of landline service and the Consumer’s Choice plans will not be immediate. The legislation still has to be signed by the governor, and AT&T needs final FCC permission to end landline service once and for all. AT&T would then be required to warn consumers about any change in service months ahead of time.

See how legislators voted on AT&T’s legislation in the House (81-27) and Senate (53-3). It’s disappointing, but this fight isn’t over just yet.