Groups Fear Phone Companies Could Cut Landlines

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Nine consumer advocacy groups met in the Statehouse Wednesday to speak out against a bill they say "would end the guarantee of landline phone service for Ohioans."

Affected are so-called competitive regions.

That means five phone companies, including AT&T and Cincinnati Bell, would have the option of discontinuing landline service.

"It doesn't make sense to have a turn-of-the-last century regulation in place that requires the phone company to invest in antiquated technology that many people are choosing not to use anyway," said state Sen. Frank LaRose, sponsor of the bill. "What this is about is making sure that those limited infrastructure dollars are invested in getting broadband service to every Ohioan."

However, the coalition said most people don't support the bill that could jeopardize landline service.

They say the legislation is bad for Ohioans but good for phone companies.

"They want to cherry pick and not really serve those people that have the greatest need because it's gonna affect senior citizens, rural folks and those low-income people in areas where it's not covered," said Mike Turner, Executive Director of United Seniors of Athens County. "And it's not just Athens or the Appalachian counties. Just go one county east in Licking County, and you'll find a lot of people that don't have cell coverage and have no other options."

LaRose says it would most likely affect people moving into new housing developments where phone companies could opt out of putting in landlines.

The bill passed the Senate back in February by a vote of 30 to 3.

It's now on hold in a House committee.

Michael Locklear is a fellow in Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.