Bay Area residents outraged over possibly losing landlines: Here's more on effort to save them

Melanie Woodrow Image
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
Bay Area residents outraged over possibly losing landlines
Bay Area officials are meeting with AT&T to talk about the carrier's proposal to end landline service to thousands of Californians.

WOODSIDE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Mateo County officials are meeting with AT&T representatives on Monday to talk about the proposal to end landline service to thousands of California customers.

The beauty of Woodside is certainly something to talk about, but talking by phone from Woodside is another story.

Bree-Anna Vail has lived in the town 29 years and she has the relics to prove it.

"We have wired in a landline here and it's a candlestick phone, an antique phone and it's wired so you can dial the rotary," said Vail.

UPDATE: AT&T, San Mateo Co. officials meet over future of landlines in California: Here's what happened

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors heard from AT&T officials on Tuesday about ending landline service to thousands of customers.

Beyond entertainment purposes, the Vail family needs a landline.

"We do have power when the power is out because we have a generator that powers the whole home," said Vail.

But the generator doesn't power the WiFi router, which the Vails need to use a cellphone inside their home.

"This is my new generator," said Vail.

"We have about an hour and a half of time and then the wifi goes out, we have no television, we have no computer, we have no phones, we have nothing," she continued.

Which is why San Mateo County District 3 Supervisor Ray Mueller says county officials are meeting with AT&T to better understand what's going on.

MORE: AT&T nationwide outage caused by software update, not malicious intent: Sources

The AT&T nationwide outage was caused by a software update gone wrong, not malicious intent, sources tell ABC News.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, AT&T has submitted two proposals to remove its obligation to provide voice services in its service territories.

"It's about someone who's sitting there in a natural hazard scenario with a fire bearing down on them or completely cut off in a storm system who may have other ailments not being able to reach out and call 911 because they have no means of communication they're completely isolated," said Meuller.

"So last year, we had an eight day outage, there are seven days we would not have any kind of communication for police, fire or ambulance," said Vail.

"We're getting up in years and we think it's important for us to be able to call for medical attention and fire department and police and those kinds of things," said Robert Vail.

Last month, AT&T's wireless network went down for customers across the U.S.

Thomas Steed is the Chairman of the Association of BellTel Retirees.

"If the entire electrical grid in the United States went dark, your landline phones will still work because our central office generates our own power automatically," said Steed.

MORE: AT&T offers $5 account credit to customers affected by nationwide cellular outage

In an emailed statement, AT&T tells ABC7 News it is not cancelling landline service in California, writing: "No customer will be disconnected, and we're working with the remaining consumers who use traditional landline service to upgrade to newer technologies."

"But that broadband internet goes out in these natural hazard events," said Meuller.

Which is why opponents like the Vail family say landlines should be here to stay.

The San Mateo Board of Supervisors meeting is open to the public at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

There's also a California Public Utilities Commission virtual public hearing on March 19.

MORE: Comcast says parts of its plant were damaged during the weekend storm

Those in the Peninsula are still dealing with problems because of the storms we've seen.

AT&T's full statement here:

"We are not cancelling landline service in California, and none of our California customers will lose access to voice service or 911 service. For customers who do not have alternative options available yet, we will continue to provide their existing voice service as long as is needed. No customer will be disconnected, and we're working with the remaining consumers who use traditional landline service to upgrade to newer technologies."

Additional info from AT&T:

  • Fiber and wireless-based networks are faster, more reliable, use less energy and require less maintenance over time.
  • Fewer than 5% of households we serve in California use copper-based landline phone service.
  • We are focused on enhancing our network with more advanced, higher speed technologies like fiber and wireless, which consumers are increasingly demanding over outdated copper-based services.
  • During climate disasters, when staying connected is essential, our fiber network is more resilient and reliable than our outdated copper network.
  • Old copper cables take significantly longer to repair following weather events, in some cases taking weeks to dry because of damage due to extensive rain and flooding.
  • We operate landline networks in 21 states across the country, and 20 of those states have already allowed us to transition from outdated copper technologies to more modern services like fiber and wireless, and none of our traditional landline customers lost service as a result.
  • Our application with the CPUC is just the first step of a multi-year process to phase out copper-based landline phone service as demand for it continues to decline. In California, 99.7 percent of consumers within our service territory have at least three facilities-based alternative options for voice service. We are committed to bringing more modern services to California that the public needs and wants.
Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live