State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) 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.

“This bill could be devastating to the countless U.P. residents who rely on landlines to communicate,” Dianda said. “I guess Republicans who voted for this bill have never tried to make a cell phone call in the U.P.”

House Democrats say this does not take into account emergency situations such as a power outage, when cell phones cannot be charged and VoIP devices could not be powered. 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.

“This bill does not take into account the safety of rural residents who cannot rely on cell phone reception,” Dianda said. “It does not make sense to replace a system that is tried, tested and successful with one that could leave people without access to communication.”

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 connection 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.

“With the passage of this bill, Republicans are going to force people to go up against the decisions of the federal government and the FCC,” Dianda said. “This bill allows phone companies to profit at the expense of Michigan citizens.”