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Gridley Herald

With AT&T Upgrades, is it Unsafe to Eliminate Landlines?

Mar 06, 2024 05:02PM ● By Teri Saya
So far, at least 3,500 have filed public comments, most of them opposing the waiver. Engin Akyurt - Pixabay

YUBA CITY, CA (MPG) - It was March 15, 2022, when disaster struck in the tiny Butte County community of Forbestown. A fire broke out in a double-wide trailer that was the office at the Peaceful Pines Mobile Home Park.

Dale Mansfield, co-owner of the mobile home park, received a phone call on his landline just after 11:00 pm from a tenant. “Your sister's house is on fire and it looks fully engulfed!”

“I told my wife to call my nephew, my sister's son, tell him there's trouble. I live about a mile from the park, and when I got there, the whole valley was lit up by a plume of fire. I was there before the fire department arrived. I started walking back towards my sister's place and there was a power line down and it was arcing and bouncing around on the ground. And the flames burned clear to the top of a hundred-foot cedar tree right there. The whole back end of her double-wide mobile home was gone. I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do, the blaze was out of control.”

Cal Fire arrived and was able to extinguish the fire. Unfortunately, Mansfield’s sister died in the blaze. The Fire Investigator told him that the fire had been burning in the kitchen where she had been using the stove to heat the place for at least 15 minutes before it caught the rest of the home on fire. Evidently, she had no working fire alarms.

Neighbors tried calling 911 on their cell phones but were unable to get through due to no cell phone service. Eventually, someone was able to contact the fire department, and according to Mansfield, showed up later than would have if there had been reliable cell phone coverage.

Like so many other people who live in remote areas, Mansfield does not like the idea of landlines being eliminated. “This is my personal feeling about it, but I don't think you should trade a perfectly good, sound working technology for something that only works half-assed. A dropped call is strictly something that happens on cell phones. Because you don't get a dropped call on landlines. So many might hang up on you, but you never get disconnected.”

People panicked when, recently, a nationwide cell service blackout occurred and lasted several hours. And now AT&T has put in a request to the California Public Utilities Commission to waive its obligation to maintain landline phone service. This includes its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligations.

What is COLR? Here is an explanation taken from the California Public Utilities website; “COLR is a telecommunications service provider that stands ready to provide basic telephone service, commonly landline telephone service, to any customer requesting such service within a specified area. At least one telephone company in a specified area is legally required to provide access to telephone service to anyone in its service territory who requests it. This is known as the Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligation, which ensures that everyone in California has access to safe, reliable, and affordable telephone service. AT&T is the designated COLR in many parts of the state and is the largest COLR in California. Where AT&T is the default landline telephone service provider means that the company must provide traditional landline telephone service to any potential customer in that service territory.”

Public hearings began in February at the California Public Utilities Commission on the matter. The commission also is taking public comments. So far, at least 3,500 have filed public comments – most of them opposing the waiver.

AT&T assures customers will continue to have access to emergency services 911, and that no customers will be disconnected. “We are working with the few remaining consumers who still use traditional copper-based phone service to upgrade to newer technologies from AT&T or other providers.”

For more information and to participate in the CPUC public hearings, go to: