For well over a hundred years, landline telephones were the dominant means of communication in America and around the world. Now, less than half of U.S. households have them.
AT&T, which once produced iconic commercials encouraging people to “reach out and touch someone” via their telephones, is now keen to pull the plug on traditional landline service.
After intense lobbying in Springfield, lawmakers were persuaded to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto and pass legislation that could ultimately disconnect 1.2 million landline users in Illinois.
Julie Vahling, associate state director for AARP and the organization’s lead lobbyist in Springfield on this issue, worries that people who are poorer and on fixed incomes could be forced into a new system that may be more costly and not as reliable.
She says many AARP members are upset that lawmakers voted for this change.
“They don’t understand why their state representatives and state senators would vote to do this,” said Vahling. “They are concerned and scared. They don’t know what they are going to do. One of the biggest things in terms of quality of life as we age – and hopefully age well – is being able to socialize and communicate. Taking away something that someone has known for 85 years of their life because you think it’s better for them, in my opinion that is wrong.”
In a statement sent to Chicago Tonight, AT&T Illinois President Paul La Schiazza said: “It’s important for our Illinois customers to know that traditional landline phone service from AT&T is not going away anytime soon.”
Schiazza added that “while the timetable for that transition is undetermined at this time, it could take a number of years.”
On the show: Vahling joins Phil Ponce to discuss the landline legislation. We did invite AT&T to be a part of this discussion but they declined our invitation.
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