.County Wants to Save Landlines

Residents want to remain hooked up

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a resolution denying a request from AT&T to be released from its requirements to provide landline services to Santa Cruz County.

While the resolution—which will be sent to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC)—carries little official weight, it will likely send a strong message to the PUC, which will make the ultimate decision.

The discussion came in response to a Jan. 22 letter from AT&T to its customers, informing them that the company has submitted an application to the PUC to be removed from its obligation to provide landline services to a large portion of its service territory in California.

AT&T Vice President of External Affairs Tedi Vriheas told the supervisors that the network of traditional copper lines upon which landlines run—as well as DSL service—has gone the way of the steam engine and fax machines.

“AT&T’s copper network is coming to the end of its lifecycle, and it will soon become obsolete,” she said. “It’s very difficult to get parts, and to maintain and to get installers trained and dispatched.”

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Moreover, replacement equipment is so hard to get that AT&T has resorted to buying it on websites such as eBay, Vriheas  said.

“We have manufacturers that are no longer producing parts for this network, and it is eventually going to go away,” she said.

Vriheas also pointed out that, for areas with no alternative providers—which covers roughly 1,249 residents in rural mountain communities—AT&T cannot legally end their landline service.

She also said that the move will likely take place over years, not months, to complete.

Still, the company’s announcement has worried residents of rural and mountainous regions, who rely on their landlines for communication during emergencies when their internet goes out with their power.

And AT&T has offered no viable replacement, said Supervisor Zach Friend, who pulled the item off the consent agenda to have a deeper discussion.

“It’s my personal belief that none of the backup systems exist that are adequate yet in order to meet the needs of landline users, in particular rural landline residents throughout Santa Cruz County,” Friend said.

Friend acknowledged that copper lines are a fading technology.

“But in order for it to be phased out, and for people to have the security they need in a landline service, there needs to be proof that there is an adequate and equal backup service, which has so far been shown not to be the case,” he said.

Friend also expressed frustration about the lack of notice from AT&T about their request to end landline services.

“There was no outreach to the county, there was no outreach to elected officials,” he said. “There was no outreach to the community other than the letter.”

Supervisor Manu Koenig said he has heard concerns from many of his constituents, many of whom still rely on their landlines

“Our mountainous region is a very difficult topography to maintain communications,” he said. “Maintaining our proper telephone lines system is essential to make sure that rural residents can get word out and in during these emergency events.”

The issue will return to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 27, when they will hear an in-depth presentation by AT&T.



    Speaking as one who has worked in tech for 40 years, including many years designing products and services for carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint: “It’s very difficult to get parts, and to maintain and to get installers trained and dispatched.” is nothing more than a diversion.

    AT&T DESIGNED these parts. They are the king daddy when it comes to expertise re: their systems, and of course, they have many decades of expertise in manufacturing, deploying, and repairing those parts and systems.

    This is ALL about money, abandoning customers who are used to, and who want or NEED, landlines, In 55 years of use, NOT ONCE has the landline phone system failed me. OTOH, my AT&T cellular phone service has experienced several outages over the last 10 years, and there have been countless times where the coverage dropped because I was in a geographical location that cut off service. Unreliable, and proof that their corporate marketing is nthing but lies crafted to deceive customers and benefit the few executives are at the top.

    Make no mistake. This is pure corporate greed, a preliminary move without safety rails that will only add to the salaries of executives while screwing everyone else.

    I’ve never attended a Board of Supervisors review, but I will attend this one. Cant wait to excoriate these SOBs.

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  2. I need my landline. I don’t want to be forced into something unreliable.
    This is a requirement for many of the elderly who do not understand cell phones or even want them.
    I believe it wise to maintain and service that is and has been reliable for decades. Let us not pinch pennies here. Cell power can be lost at any time.

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