Opponents say bill to eliminate landline service threatens - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Opponents say bill to eliminate landline service threatens public safety

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(12/09/13) - Imagine needing to call 911 and not being able to get through.

That's a very real possibility, according to those against a bill that would allow phone companies to eliminate traditional landline telephone service starting in 2017.  

It's a state bill, SB636, and it cleared the Senate overwhelmingly last week.

It could be up in the House before lawmakers break for the year.

Michigan police chiefs and sheriffs oppose the bill, saying it threatens public safety, especially for the elderly and for those in rural areas.

"It's not a blender on the kitchen counter," said Terry Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs' Association. "It's something that could or could not save lives on how well it works. We're concerned that some people in the far reaches of the state, in rural areas, aren't going to have the opportunity the people in the metropolitan areas have."

AARP Michigan hosted a news conference Monday afternoon.

AARP, along with the heads of the police and sheriffs' associations, allege the proposed Internet-based landlines and also cell phones are less reliable, especially during severe weather and large crowd situations.

AARP is also concerned that the responsibility lies within the customer, not a state agency, to get with regulators to make sure there are reliable, satisfactory alternatives.    

"The point of this legislation is to streamline the bureaucratic process going forward with this transition," said Matt Resch, Public Affairs Director of AT&T Michigan. "The FCC is going to look to state commissions for guidance about what should happen in their states."

Resch, and those backing the bill say it does not remove landlines from homes, it just uses the technology in a different way. No one will be left without access to 911 service, he said.

The House Energy & Technology Committee will consider the bill during a hearing Tuesday morning.

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