Pull the plug on Senate Bill 636

The Michigan State House of Representatives is set to consider a proposal that would allow telephone companies to discontinue landline service.

Introduced by State Senator Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, Senate Bill 636 would streamline regulations on “landline” telephone service providers so as to facilitate transitioning customers to a wireless (cell phone or VOIP) system, and allow phone companies to discontinue landline service after 2016.

The bill authorizes appeal procedures for individual customers for whom the replacement service does not work well.

We agree that cellphone use has increased dramatically, but pulling the plug on landline service is just plain hogwash.

Cellphone service is not nearly as reliable in rural areas such as the Upper Peninsula, as landlines. In many cases, that landline phone is a senior citizen’s only link to the outside world.

Despite State Senator Tom Casperson’s no vote, the bill passed the State Senate, and is being consider in the State House.

Thankfully, there are quite a few groups lining up to fight this nonsense.

This week, the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners expressed its opposition.

It is also being fought by the Michigan Association of Counties as well as Michigan police chiefs and sheriffs.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also opposes the bill.

Law enforcement authorities say it puts seniors and rural residents at risk during emergencies because Internet-based land lines and cellphones are less reliable.

The American Association of Retired Persons says it wrongly puts the onus on customers to ask regulators to ensure they have a reliable alternative. AARP says there are no assurances that alternative services will be affordable.

The proposed legislation would take away the authority of the Michigan Public Service Commission to oversee the discontinuance of landline service and instead place it within the Federal Communications Commission, the Michigan Association of Counties says.

The FCC has not been in the business of regulating Michigan telephone service, said Dickinson County Commissioner Joe Stevens, who offered the resolution in opposition to the bill.

“This is taking away state and local authority,” Stevens said.

There’s nothing good in the proposal for the people. It simply reduce costs for telephone companies.

Phone companies say they’ll use that money to improve cell phone service, erect more cell towers and updated fiber optic networks.

Instead of taking something away from the poor, rural folks and senior citizens, why don’t phone companies stop giving away unlimited talking and texting.

That would free up some funds as well.

We’re urging State Rep. Edward McBroom, R-Vulcan, to do whatever it takes to defeat this bill.