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Bill to pull the plug on telephone landlines clears Michigan Legislature

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Critics of the bill worry it could leave people in some areas of the state without affordable and reliable phone service.

It could soon be easier for phone companies to end traditional landline service in Michigan.

The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the measure Thursday. Senate Bill 636, which was championed by AT&T, now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

AARP and other critics say it could leave people in some areas of the state without reliable and affordable service. And some people worry it would mean having to rely on spotty cell phone service.

“We’ve got a lot of rural areas and they’re quite concerned about it,” said state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, who represents most of the Upper Peninsula. “We don’t know the outcome. We’re not sure that the safeguards are put in place.”

But bill sponsor state Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, says people will not necessarily have to switch to cell phones. He says the phones most people plug into their walls are actually connecting through the internet or other digital lines.

“A lot of people have what they think is a landline today, but they actually have the new system,” said Nofs. “People are not buying the service, and yet we’re still requiring - we’re all paying - to keep that old system up.”

Nofs admits that those lines may not work during power outages – a major concern of bill opponents. Traditional landlines do work during blackouts.

The bill would not take full effect until 2017.

Nofs says that gives phone providers plenty of time to upgrade equipment and transition customers to newer technologies.

*This post has been updated.