LANSING — State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) was disappointed by the passage of Senate Bill 636, which could put landline telephone service in jeopardy across Michigan. Seniors who use medical alert devices – most of which currently work only through landline services – are in danger of losing this life-saving tool.

“When older people are in trouble, they usually rely on a landline to call for help. Many of them don’t own a cell phone or computer,” Brinks said. “Our job is to protect those people, not the interests of big phone companies, and that’s why I voted against this bill.”

While Republicans push the possible use of cell phones and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) devices, House Democrats say this does not take into account emergency situations. In the instance of a power outage, cell phones cannot be charged, and VoIP devices could not be powered. Furthermore, reliable wireless and broadband options are not available in every part of Michigan, which would make the use of landline telephone communication a necessity – especially in the case of an emergency. Either way, studies have shown that landline services are much more reliable regarding 9-1-1 and emergency calls.

“New technologies that are replacing landlines aren’t available in all parts of the state,” Brinks said. “When disaster strikes, people need to know that they have a reliable connection to emergency services. This bill fails to take them into consideration.”

It is more expensive for service providers to install, replace and maintain copper wiring for landline services than it is to move to a newer technology such as wireless or VoIP. If passed, this bill would allow companies to remove already established copper wiring connections if they petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) successfully, leaving many in both rural and urban areas with no possibility of traditional landline services. Residents could appeal this, but at the expense of a mountain of paperwork.