LANSING – State Representative Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) 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.

“I have heard from many senior citizens in my district that they do not want to lose the convenience and security of having a landline,” said Yanez. “Frequently during power outages, landlines are the only phones that remain working. Republicans are not considering the needs of seniors and other citizens when they push us all toward using cell phone and Internet-based phone service.”

House Democrats say that Republicans pushing the possible use of cell phones and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) devices 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 â 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.

“In some areas of the state, cell phone service is spotty and people may not be able to get help quickly in a crisis,” said Yanez. “As a former firefighter, I am concerned about how this would affect 911 service and people being unable to get quick help, or dispatchers being unable to pinpoint a caller on a cellphone quickly. New technologies are fine if they work well for you, but they won’t always work for everyone.”

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.

“We shouldn’t be going against decisions of the federal government or the FCC concerning this technology,” said Yanez. “This is just another giveaway to the phone companies at the expense of Michigan citizens.”