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How will AT&T's request to stop providing basic landline telephone service impact California residents?

By Jim Bohon, Yolo Co. Commission on Aging and Adult Services

a black wired telephone

AT&T has asked the California Public Utilities Commission to relieve the company of its obligation to provide basic landline telephone service to houses and businesses who want simple telephone service.


On March 3, 2023, AT&T filed for removal of its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligations in areas where there is a voice alternative to AT&T’s Plain Old Telephone Service, such as wireless and voice over internet. In addition, AT&T requested to give up its designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) on the same day. The Public Utilities Commission is expected to rule on the request in September 2024.


In their filing with the Public Utilities Commission, AT&T stated that “mobile wireless and broadband voice support 911 dialing, access for people with disabilities, and other critical functions as well as or better than POTS [plain old telephone service]”. This is highly misleading. It overlooks the requirement that in order to work, all wireless and broadband services require electricity. Electrical service is notoriously unreliable across much of the Northern California. Additionally, those mobile wireless and broadband services are not regulated like basic telephone service and cost much more. The Lifeline cost is about $25 per month and the average cell phone service is around $70 per month.


AT&T’s request to relinquish its designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier claims the change “will not harm consumers.” The Public Utilities Commission’s assessment is that a household on the federal Lifeline program could see their phone bill increase by $5.25 per month and households on Tribal lands could incur an additional monthly charge of $25.

What Can You Do?


On March 19th, 2024, the Public Utilities Commission will be holding a public hearing. There will be live video broadcast with English or Spanish captions webcast at However, you can only make comments and voice your concern about this request by calling into the Public Utilities Commission’s public hearing on March 19th at either 2:00 pm or 6:00 pm. The call-in number is 1-800-857-1917, passcode: 6032788#. To add your name to the list to make a comment, after entering the passcode and when prompted press *1, then record your name. You will be called on when it is your turn.


You can also make a comment by computer by going to the Public Utilities Commission web site at:,57,RIR:P5_PROCEEDING_SELECT:A2303003. Select Add a Public Comment.


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