AT&T says don't worry about copper lines, California legislators say OK

14 April 2016 by Steve Blum
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History says otherwise.

AT&T is one step closer to getting blanket permission to yank its copper networks in rural California, and replace them with wireless service as it pleases. On a lopsided vote, the assembly utilities and commerce committee voted to move assembly bill 2395 along toward a full floor vote. Written by AT&T and carried on its behalf by assemblyman Evan Low (D – Silicon Valley), the bill would allow AT&T to replace legacy analog voice telephone networks and service with any functional equivalent, so long as it’s capable of calling 911.

The committee chairman, Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles), pushed hard for the bill, which now includes unpublished amendments which are supposed to track with recommendations made by assembly staff analysts. He doesn’t think AT&T’s copper systems will disappear in the same way the Los Angeles street car network disappeared following years of lobbying pressure from the automotive industry – a competing technology…

I’m from Los Angeles, I know that the lesson learned with [street cars] – it’s a very, very good point. I can also assure you that this committee considered that. We have a very, very good perspective on history in this committee and you can rest assured that nobody will tear up any copper line infrastructure. The cost of it, to tear up every street in the United States and take out the copper is not going to happen. At least, I don’t think it’ll happen. This committee will not let it happen.

If he means what he says, then the amended bill will include some kind of guarantees to that effect. If he’s relying on AT&T’s good will, he needs to think again. Other committee members pushed AT&T staff lobbyist Ken McNeely on whether the bill would mean ending wireline service and he gave a sufficiently vague answer to apparently satisfy them, while leaving plenty of room to do exactly that.