“Those rules were put in place decades ago,” LaRose said. “Forcing companies to use finite infrastructure dollars on plain old telephone doesn’t make sense today.”
Ohio, along with Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and California are considering bills that would absolve carriers such as Verizon and AT&T from the landline obligation. The matter is expected to be raised eventually in the District, Virginia and Maryland, which are served by Verizon, industry officials and consumer advocates said.
“What’s happening is being driven by consumer choices,” said David Young, vice president of federal regulatory affairs at Verizon. “We are already seeing a rapid drop of traditional wireline connections, and that is only going to continue.”
Added Joel Lubin, vice president of public policy at AT&T: “The train has left the station. Consumers are making their choices, and it’s not for plain, old telephones. Yet an outdated regulatory system still applies.”
Although the decision to repeal the universal landline requirement is in the hands of state governments, the Federal Communications Commission is considering ways to allocate federal funds to offset costs for some consumers, Lubin said. The agency has also passed rules that require Internet voice and wireless providers to guarantee the delivery of 911 calls.
But for some, such as Wisconsin Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D), wireless and satellite services are unreliable at her home, a farm outside Alma.
Vinehout has to drive eight miles to get her Verizon Wireless cellphone to work. Her satellite Internet service goes out with light snow and wind. She is concerned that she won’t be able to call public-safety responders in an emergency.
She plans to work to repeal the state law that takes effect Jan. 14, which ends AT&T’s obligation to serve her home and those in nine rural counties.
“This is a real public-safety problem, and what they offer as alternatives don’t reflect reality,” Vinehout said.
Staff writer Brady Dennis contributed to this report.