As a family caregiver to Mom and Pop for many years, I know reliable technology can mean the difference between life and tragedy.
Yet, in states across the country, phone companies that provide landline service are trying to force residents to switch to a new wireless phone option — one that does not work with many medical monitoring devices, like pacemakers and defibrillators, home security systems, and sometimes even 911.
In New Jersey, for example, the phone company doesn’t want to replace the landlines damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Instead, the company wants to force New Jerseyans to use a new fixed wireless home phone option that isn’t yet as reliable as landline phones or compatible with critical services that connect to the phone network.
New Jerseyans should not be forced to give up their landline phone service for a less reliable wireless option that doesn’t keep them safe. The fact is, the wireless home phone services currently offered are not as reliable, nor do they provide all of the functions of landlines, like being able to call 911 even if the power is out for an extended period of time and backup batteries are drained.
The good news is, a bill (A2459/S278) being considered by the New Jersey Assembly and supported by AARP New Jersey and Don’t Hang Up On New Jersey — a coalition of more than 30 consumer advocates and community organizations — would stop this plan. It would place a one-year moratorium on the forced switch from landline to wireless phones, giving the Board of Public Utilities time to study how it would affect real people. During the moratorium, service providers would still be able to offer their wireless home phone option — but residents wouldn’t be forced to switch from landline service. The bill has already passed in committee and awaits action by the full Assembly.
For more than 50 years, AARP has been fighting to help older Americans live independently. Today, landline phone service is still a lifeline for seniors’ health and safety — and that’s why AARP is fighting to make sure the people who need landline service have access to it.
This year, five states have already moved to protect reliable phone service for their residents — and protect seniors from tragedy:
- Iowa: AARP Iowa opposed legislation (House Study Bill 590) that would prevent regulation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or wireless service options. The bill failed to pass out of committee.
- Kentucky: On April 15 the Kentucky General Assembly adjourned without taking up proposed legislation (SB 99) that would put reliable home phone service in danger.
- Maryland: A study will be conducted in Maryland on the implications of replacing landline service with a wireless option.
- New Mexico: AARP New Mexico helped to stop a proposal to deregulate telephone service. Instead, a memorial passed that creates an interim legislative committee to look at possible changes to New Mexico’s telecommunications laws.
- New York: AARP New York kept the state budget from threatening access to reliable phone service by preventing telecommunication deregulation.