On March 11, 2014, Michigan’s House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 636 by a vote of 71 – 39. This bill streamlines regulations for phone companies to end landline telephone service, starting in 2017. The bill is likely to become law within the next few weeks. Led by AT&T and opposed by AARP, this somewhat controversial legislation has supporters of both sides putting their own spin on the facts in order to bolster public opinion in their direction. Unfortunately, throughout the debate, one thing has become certain; many landline users now mistakenly fear losing their reliable landline phone service.
We want you to know that even though the legislative requirements for offering landline telephone service may be changing, we have no plans to abandon our landline customers. We have been providing service to the U.P. for more than a century and are committed to another 100 years, at least. Your support, of your locally owned and operated communications company (OCTC, HTC, CCTC, and MTC), has allowed us to invest in and develop a world-class voice and broadband network that is robust enough to deliver quality communication services well into the future. We are here for the long haul and prepared to see our hard work and investment mature as the U.P. continues its positive strides in economic development.
In closing, we want to thank you for your support. We are proud to be able to provide quality and reliable services to our friends, relatives, and neighbors and recognize that it is because of you that we are able to do what we love, each and every day. We look forward to the next century of service to the Upper Peninsula.
Answers to Questions about Senate Bill 636
1.Do CCTC, HTC, MTC, and OCTC want to stop providing landline service?
No. We have always been committed to providing communications services to everyone in the communities we serve. We intend to keep investing in our networks to give you the highest quality services available.
2.Will the legislation allow phone companies to stop providing landline service?
Yes, but that can be done under current law, too. Here’s the way the process will work:
• From now until January 2017, nothing changes.
• Starting in 2017, if a company wants to withdraw traditional landline service they would have to receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission as the first step.
• When they file their application with the FCC, the company will have to notify customers and the Michigan Public Service Commission of their intent to withdraw service.
• If the FCC approves the withdrawal, the company would have to send a second notice to customers and the MPSC at least 90 days before the discontinuance would be effective.
• Within that 90-day window, a customer in the area at issue can request an MPSC investigation into whether comparable and reliable services will still be available after the withdrawal.
• If the MPSC finds that an emergency exists because services won’t be available, it can require the company to continue offering service until the emergency situation is resolved.
3.What else is in the bill?
The biggest issue for our customers is a section of the bill that fixes a problem with state law caused by new federal regulations. This issue will have a much more direct – positive – impact on your service. The bill fixes a problem created by the FCC that would have cost our company tens of thousands in revenues starting later this year. Now those revenues will stay in our community so we can invest them in your service.
4.Why does AT&T want to change the Carrier of Last Resort regulations?
AT&T says it is promoting the bill because it wants to invest in new technologies known as Voice Over Internet Protocol (or VoIP) instead of being forced by regulations to spend money on technologies it considers to be outdated. They believe the bill removes the state regulations that require AT&T and other companies to maintain old networks so they can invest more heavily in the latest technologies.
5.Why does AARP oppose the legislation?
Opponents of the bill think it will mean customers are stranded without any service options. Those concerns were addressed by legislators as the bill moved through the process, which is how the new withdrawal process was developed.