Hartford, CT - AARP Connecticut joined on Thursday with other consumer advocates to oppose legislation (H.B. 6402) that would allow AT&T to drop competitive land line telephone service as defined by CT law in certain areas of the state, without a regulatory hearing or review. AARP fights on issues that matter to Connecticut seniors and their families and is working to protect competitive telephone land line service for statewide customers who rely on it for safety and security.
Advocates also are opposed to legislation (H.B. 6401) that would prohibit future state regulation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Both bills are being considered by the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee.
According to Coralette Hannon, AARP Senior Legislative Representative, landline service is a lifeline for many seniors and low-income residents. “Telephone communication is a basic necessity, allowing older people to maintain social contact, preserve health and safety, and gain assistance in an emergency,” Hannon said. “AT&T’s bill would put thousands of telephone customers at risk of losing their service, with no reliable alternative.”
State Representative Matthew Lesser (D-100) said, "AARP is right: folks across Connecticut and particularly seniors rely on their landlines. It's not just about convenience, it's about public safety. I see no public benefit to this legislation and considerable danger."
“It is clear that AT&T wants all of the benefits of being Connecticut’s phone company without any of the responsibilities. We urge the legislature to reject this anti-consumer piece of legislation,” said John Murphy, Organizing Director for Connecticut Citizens Action Group (CCAG).
H.B. 6402 would allow AT&T to drop “competitive” telephone services upon 30 days’ notice without regulatory review or hearing. In Connecticut, “competitive” is defined as basic telephone, plus one additional feature, such as caller ID, call waiting, long distance, etc. Services like caller ID are a critical tool to protect seniors from telemarketer fraud.
Although the legislation would not allow AT&T to withdraw noncompetitive services (plain old telephone), as soon as a customer purchases an additional feature or service that customer would be at risk. Most landline customers would fall into this “competitive” category.
In addition to putting land line telephone service at risk, the legislation also would eliminate the Connecticut annual audit of AT&T and Verizon and sharply curtail PURA’s regulatory oversight of AT&T, jeopardizing network reliability and service quality and putting older people’s safety at risk. The legislation would provide a compelling incentive for AT&T to encourage its noncompetitive customers to migrate to “competitive” services so that AT&T could avoid oversight of its service reliability and quality.
“There is nothing in this bill that benefits consumers, and plenty that would harm them,” AARP State Advocacy Director John Erlingheuser said. “In its own advertising for wireless telephone, AT&T includes a disclaimer to warn customers that it is not considered an alternative to a landline telephone. We agree and that’s why we urge legislators to stand up for their constituents and oppose this bill.”
Consumer advocate organizations joining AARP in opposition to the bill include: Citizens for Economic Opportunity (CEO), Connecticut Association of Human Services (CAHS), Connecticut Citizens Action Group (CCAG), ConnPIRG, Common Cause Connecticut, Communications Workers of America, CT Working Families, and Legal Assistance Resource Center.