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Saturday, October 22, 2016


This opinion piece originally appeared at

The guarantee of landline telephone service at almost any address, a legal right many Americans may not even know they have, is quietly being legislated away in our U.S. state capitals.

AT&T and Verizon, the dominant telephone companies, want to end their 99-year-old universal service obligation known as “provider of last resort.” They say universal landline service is a costly and unfair anachronism that is no longer justified because of a competitive market for voice services.

The new rules AT&T and Verizon drafted would enhance profits by letting them serve only the customers they want. Their focus, and that of smaller phone companies that have the same universal service obligation, is on well-populated areas where people can afford profitable packages that combine telephone, Internet and cable television.

Sprint, T-Mobile and the cell phone divisions of AT&T and Verizon are not subject to universal service and can serve only those areas they find profitable.

Unless the new rules are written very carefully, millions of people, urban and rural, will lose basic telephone service or be forced to pay much more for calls.

Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin already have repealed universal service obligations. No one has been cut off yet, but once almost every state has ended universal service I am sure we will see parts of the landline system shut down.

Years of subtle incremental legal changes have brought the telephone companies within sight of ending universal service, which began in 1913 when AT&T President Thomas Vail promised “one system, one policy, universal service” in return for keeping Ma Bell’s monopoly.

AT&T wants universal service obligations to end wherever two or more voice services are available, said Joel Lubin, AT&T’s public policy vice president. Verizon promotes a similar approach.

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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • dawnowens

    If you already pay for internet, you can get phone service for free through several different means including long distance (Skype, Ooma, etc.).

    I’m unclear on why anyone would want landline service and I don’t have a cell phone so I’m not totally on board with that, either…

  • Dawn Owens, in many areas of this country these services are not offered. The only type of service for many people is a land line. Also, if the PUC is done away with and like FIOS they have no authority over, we will be at their mercy as to the type of service they want to give us. We will have to hire lawyers and sue them with the costs going up even further. So, no this will not only effect service, but who regulates them in the way they do business with us.

  • frankblvdr

    I tell people if it is important use the land line, cell is only astep above a walkey talky, either good or bad, not consant.

  • ObozoMustGo

    CAN YOU IMAGINE THE HORROR??????????? How could we possibly let a business serve customers they want???? Ohhhhh the humanity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a bunch of useful idiots! Especially the dope that wrote this.

    • sn77339

      I would suspect that if you lived out in a rural area with no cell service and only a landline, you wouldn’t be so smug.

  • dawnowens, some of us live in a rural area that doesn’t have very useful cellular telephone signals A land line is the only way to be able to have phone service. We are experiencing some great strides in the amount of coverage the cell companies are offering but there are still some areas where there is nothing.

  • Theodore Schultz

    Living in a rural area of VA., I have to agree with David. I have cell phone service, but I have stand on my dock on a cloudy day to get a signal.

  • I live in a mountainous rural area, cellphone coverage is spotty and unreliable although i have a keep a cheap one on me when i’m working outside. Fortunately the small local area phone company ran FiOS cable through my property 10 years ago. I was the first person to be connected on it. My neighbors are just getting hooked in now. I have a local landline but can only make local calls on it. The best telephone service is through magicjack which is ~39.99/ year.

  • catkotrosa

    Danowens: I’m a little confused. You say you don’t understand why anyone would want landline service. From this I infer that you don’t have a landline. You go on to say that you don’t have a cell phone either. What do you use?

  • As susual everything for the “Corporation” and nothing to us lowly peons. David Snyder is right! There are a lot of places (especially rural) that don’t have adequante signals for cell phone service (Duh!) If you’ve noticed the phone company(ies) have also removed a lot of public pay phones……That too shouldn’t happen since that could be considered not only a public convenience, BUT a public safety issue in case of emergencies and 911 calls.

  • There is nothing worse then lacking home telephone service and being forced to use pay phones for every phone call! What if a real emergency happens? I guess in that situation the person has to suffer or even die without their family members knowing about it.

  • MORE ATTACKS ON THE RUARL AND THE POOR. IF YOUR RICH WY SHOULD YOU CARE IF THE OLD FOLKS DOWN THE ROAD HAVE A PHONE. not everyone can afford fancy phones or expencive service. but who cares? the aholes who own everything shure as hell don’t.

  • There is nothing in the constitution about the right to phone service. Here is an idea. If you want good phone access, move to a city!! Otherwise, you should have to pay for the privilege of having phone service in the middle of nowhere. What a nonsensical article.

  • There is nothing in the constitution about the right to phone service. Here is an idea. If you want good phone access, move to a city!! Otherwise, you should have to pay for the privilege of having phone service in the middle of nowhere. What a nonsensical article.