AT&T Petitions California to End Landline/Copper Phone Service

aging copper phone lines

Still using a traditional phone line for your elevators emergency phone?

AT&T has applied for a waiver in California that will allow them to stop servicing traditional copper phone lines, also known as POTS.

The waiver request to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that, if approved, would allow AT&T to discontinue servicing Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), the traditional copper-wire landline technology that connects your elevator phone to your monitoring service, front desk, or emergency responders. This move marks a significant step towards phasing out the aging infrastructure in favor of newer cellular and internet-based alternatives.

For decades, POTS served as the backbone of communication, connecting homes, businesses and even your elevators to telecom services across the nation. However, the rise of modern technologies (like cellular) has significantly decreased its demand. AT&T argues that maintaining the aging copper network is expensive and inefficient, especially when compared to the advanced capabilities of newer technologies. They emphasize that no customer will lose access to voice service, as alternative options are will be available.

However, the transition away from POTS raises concerns for certain demographics. Landlines remain a crucial lifeline for emergency communications, vulnerable populations, including seniors, individuals with disabilities, and those in rural areas with limited internet access. Opponents of the waiver express concerns about the affordability and reliability of the current alternative solutions, particularly for low-income communities. Additionally, some argue that abandoning the copper network entirely could create unforeseen security risks or communication disruptions during emergencies.

The CPUC is currently reviewing AT&T’s waiver request and will hold public hearings to gather input from stakeholders. The decision will weigh the economic benefits of modernization against the potential impact on vulnerable populations and the broader social implications of dismantling a long-standing communication infrastructure.

What exactly is AT&T asking for?

AT&T is requesting:

  1. Approval to be relieved of its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligations in certain areas of California. If approved, AT&T would no longer be required to offer landline telephone service where it is currently required to offer Basic Service in those areas. Basic Service includes nine service elements such as Lifeline rates for eligible customers, free access to 9-1-1, Telephone Relay Service, and directory and operator services.
  2. Approval to give up its designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC), which is a telephone company that operates in a specific geographic area that receives financial assistance from the federal government-established Universal Service Fund to provide high quality and affordable telephone service to customers at all income levels.

Affected areas

california areas of relief att

Interactive Map of proposed areas for “relief from obligation”.

If you are interested in voicing your concerns, or learning more about the proposals from AT&T, you can attend one of several public forums on the topic.

We will continue to report on this as it develops. If you are in California and need to replace your elevator landline, consider Destra Business Services and our Mobile Connect 2 cellular gateway for landlines.

KTLA News article on the landline service