California's AT&T landlines could be in jeopardy

Politicians and utility advocates are speaking out. They say Californians' right to landlines needs to be protected, and they're concerned proposed legislation puts that right in jeopardy. 

In this part of Santa Clara County, when there are wildfires or earthquakes, landlines can be lifelines. Mary Picchetti says her neighbors are all scared they could lose theirs.

"Because it's a hit-and-miss situation up here. And you know they're worried about emergencies. They have health issues, the older people," she says.

Right now, AT&T is what's called a carrier of last resort. It's required by law to offer landline service to anyone in California who wants it. But that could soon change thanks to proposed legislation.
AB 2797 would make it easier for AT&T to pull out of certain areas.

"If this passes, they are not obliged to provide service, which means they can pull completely out of serving an area. They can decide they don't want to serve certain neighborhoods. They can decline service to customers, refuse to repair their phone lines," says Regina Costa of The Utility Reform Network or TURN.

TURN has concerns. So do politicians. Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who is running for US Congress, held a news conference on the matter.

"Those who critically depend on these services for their lives and livelihoods need to know that service will be there and be reliable," he says.

Liccardo's opponent in the congressional race is Evan Low, a current state legislator. He released a statement on X saying he too is against the bill. He says, "I cannot support legislation that would cease landline service or change Carrier of Last Resort obligations without being confident rural areas can still quickly reach emergency services during storms and disasters."


AT&T proposes ending California landline service, customers want to keep lifeline

Residents in remote areas of Calif. worry AT&T's proposal to the state to end landline service could leave them cutoff in case of catastrophe.

But Marc Blakeman, President of AT&T California, released a statement saying, "No customer will be left without voice and 911 services. We are focused on AB 2797, 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."

Utility advocates have doubts. "All that has to happen under this bill is they swear, they promise that there are alternatives for customers. We know that there are not," says Costa.

Mary Picchetti says some of her neighbors have no cell service at all, and she worries about wildfire season.

"I don't think they should be able to pull the landlines from them because you know there are issues with certain people," she says.

This same matter was already rejected by the California Public Utilities Commission last week. This new bill will be heard by a Senate utilities committee on July 2.