Not Dead Yet: AT&T Must Continue Providing Landline Service in California

AT&T must continue providing landline phone service in California after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) rejected the company’s request to stop providing the service.

AT&T has been designated as a Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) in the state since 1996, meaning it has committed to providing customers with affordable and reliable phone service. The requirement is designed to ensure that telecoms don’t move entirely out of an area and leave residents without access to emergency services and other things a phone line provides.

As Ars Technica reports, AT&T asked to be released from its duties earlier this year, citing mobile phones and VoIP availability. However, the CPUC rejected the request, stating, “AT&T failed to demonstrate the availability of replacement providers willing and able to serve as COLR.”

AT&T claims that maintaining the copper lines used in some rural areas of California is too costly.

In its rejection, the commission noted, “COLR rules are technology-neutral and do not distinguish between voice services offered—such as Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), commonly known as landline service, or Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP)—and do not prevent AT&T from retiring copper facilities or from investing in fiber or other facilities/technologies to improve its network.”

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The commission also says “AT&T’s public arguments paint the picture that the Commission’s COLR Rules require AT&T to retain outdated copper-based landline facilities that are expensive to maintain,” the ruling reads, “or that AT&T needs Commission approval in order to be able to retire copper facilities and instead, invest in more modern technologies such as VoIP, wireless, and fiber. These arguments are not accurate.”

The CPUC rejected AT&T’s request with prejudice, which prevents the company from making a similar request for at least a year.

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