AT&T Can’t Hang Up On Landline Phone Customers, California Agency Rules



AT&T Can’t Hang Up On Landline Phone Customers, California Agency Rules (arstechnica.com)






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from the you-gotta-follow-the-rules dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) yesterday rejected AT&T’s request to end its landline phone obligations. The state agency also urged AT&T to upgrade copper facilities to fiber instead of trying to shut down the outdated portions of its network. AT&T asked the state to eliminate its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligation, which requires it to provide landline telephone service to any potential customer in its service territory. A CPUC administrative law judge recommended rejection of the application last month, and the commission voted to dismiss AT&T’s application with prejudice on Thursday.

“Our vote to dismiss AT&T’s application made clear that we will protect customer access to basic telephone service… Our rules were designed to provide that assurance, and AT&T’s application did not follow our rules,” Commissioner John Reynolds said in a CPUC announcement. State rules require a replacement COLR in order to relieve AT&T of its duties, and AT&T argued that VoIP and mobile services could fill that gap. But residents “highlighted the unreliability of voice alternatives” at public hearings, the CPUC said. “Despite AT&T’s contention that providers of voice alternatives to landline service — such as VoIP or mobile wireless services — can fill the gap, the CPUC found AT&T did not meet the requirements for COLR withdrawal,” the agency said. “Specifically, AT&T failed to demonstrate the availability of replacement providers willing and able to serve as COLR, nor did AT&T prove that alternative providers met the COLR definition.”

The administrative law judge’s proposed decision said AT&T falsely claimed that commission rules require it “to retain outdated copper-based landline facilities that are expensive to maintain.” The agency stressed that its rules do not prevent AT&T from upgrading to fiber. “COLR rules are technology-neutral and do not distinguish between voice services offered… and do not prevent AT&T from retiring copper facilities or from investing in fiber or other facilities/technologies to improve its network,” the agency said yesterday.

AT&T California President Marc Blakeman said the company is lobbying to change the state law. “No customer will be left without voice and 911 services. We are focused on the legislation introduced in California, which includes important protections, safeguards, and outreach for consumers and does not impact our customers in rural locations. We are fully committed to keeping our customers connected while we work with state leaders on policies that create a thoughtful transition that brings modern communications to all Californians,” Blakeman said.

According to SFGATE, the legislation pushed by AT&T “would create a way for AT&T to remain as COLR in rural regions, which the company estimates as being about 100,000 customers, while being released from COLR obligations everywhere else.”

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