Illinois residents whose sole method of electronic communication is through landline phones may soon need to rethink their methods.
A bill allowing AT&T to disconnect its remaining 1.2 million landline customers throughout the state was passed in the General Assembly on Saturday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The approval overrode Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the legislation.
AT&T has been pushing for legislation to end landline phone service to focus on “modern alternatives.” The phone company claims it loses about 5,000 landline customers in Illinois each week, but critics say the new law adversely affects those who have no choice but to rely on landlines.
"If AT&T succeeds in ending traditional landline phone service, we think that will hurt people — particularly seniors and those with medical conditions — who depend on a landline as their most reliable link to vital services," Jim Chilsen, the spokesman for watchdog group Citizens Utility Board, told the Tribune.
AT&T will need approval from the Federal Communications Commission to effectively end its landline telephone service, but the company has already successfully passed similar legislation in 19 of the 20 states where it is the legacy phone service.
AT&T, by law, is now required to notify its customers statewide before petitioning to the FCC. Customers who believe that landlines are their only practical method of communication will be able to appeal to the Illinois Commerce Commission.
After reassuring customers in a statement Wednesday that their landline service isn’t “going away anytime soon,” AT&T Illinois president Paul La Schiazza reiterated that the company still provides landline phone service.
"We value our customers, and we want to keep them," La Schiazza said. "While most customers are enjoying updated technologies today, including wireless service and modern landline service, AT&T currently continues to sell and provide traditional landline phone service to our customers."