LANSING — State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) 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.

“Many senior citizens continue to rely on landline service to communicate, especially in times of crisis,” Driskell said. “It’s a shame these needs were not taken into account as this bill passed.”

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 such as a power outage, when 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.

“Much of my district is rural, and in those areas, cell phone and broadband service isn’t always available,” Driskell said. “Why should we abandon a proven service for one that not every resident can access?”

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 it becomes law, 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.

“Michiganders shouldn’t be forced to petition the federal government for simple phone service,” Driskell said. “The wants of AT&T are being met with this legislation, but not the needs of our citizens.”