Matt Reinbold

The Federal Communications Commission hasn’t yet given phone companies permission to shut down the Public Switched Telephone Network, but AT&T and Verizon are allegedly trying to get a head start on the shutdown by forcing customers to abandon landline phones.
Public Knowledge, the Utility Reform Network, and ten other consumer advocacy groups yesterday sent a letter to the FCC asking the commission to investigate a series of complaints from around the country made by customers of phone companies, primarily Verizon and AT&T.“Complaints often state that customers are being involuntarily moved to fiber or IP-based service (or some combination thereof), even if those new technologies fail to serve all of the user’s needs or will be more expensive,” the letter said. “Denying basic phone service to people who have relied on the network for decades violates the network compact that has successfully guided our communications policy for one hundred years. A Commission investigation of these complaints is necessary to ensure the continued vitality of the fundamental values that underlie our network, including universal service.”
The FCC is expected to give permission to the phone companies to stop maintaining the old networks somewhere around 2020, potentially bringing an end to the century-old regulations that guaranteed universal service and other consumer protections. AT&T and Verizon are arguing for extensive deregulation as landlines are fully replaced by Internet-based voice service, but the FCC hasn’t yet decided what rules should apply to the new phone network.
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