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Butte supervisors OK letter opposing AT&T’s proposal to cut landline service

Landline phone
Erik Adams
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More than 37,000 residents of Butte County could be affected by a request from AT&T to end its obligation to provide landline services to many North State communities.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a letter opposing the telecom company’s request. Now, the letter is on its way to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which has the power to grant or deny AT&T’s appeal.

Supervisor Bill Connelly said he understands it's a business decision, but called the request a “public safety issue.”

In case the CPUC approves AT&T’s request, Connelly suggested the letter include a proposition to have the company give affected communities some other option.

“In other words, if you’re gonna pull out of an area, you’re going to have to provide cell service. And that seems reasonable,” Connelly said.

Supervisor Tami Ritter proposed another addition.

“I think there should be an ask in our letter, as well, that if they are to move forward that they are providing all 37,000 plus households with an Alert FM and the ongoing maintenance for it,” Ritter said.

Alert FM is a device the county has been offering free to eligible residents. It can be battery-operated and receives emergency alert notifications over radio frequencies.

“That’s the only way we’re going to be able to notify folks in the case of [an] emergency,” Ritter added.

The Butte County Undersheriff, Matthew Calkins, said losing landline service could be detrimental for many residents during emergencies. He said cell, satellite and other communications, like internet, as unsustainable options for emergency outreach.

“We may get to a point in the future where there is an alternative that will reach the same number of people,” Calkins told the board. “But we’re not there yet.”

Other North State law enforcement and emergency management officials have voiced similar concerns.

The CPUC is holding public hearings on AT&T’s request through the end of March.

As of Feb. 14, the CPUC has not specified a date for decision.

North State residents can look up their addresses on this map of communities where AT&T is proposing to withdraw as Carrier of Last Resort.

Erik began his role as NSPR's Butte County government reporter in September of 2023 as part of UC Berkeley's California Local News Fellowship. He received his bachelor's degree in Journalism from Cal State LA earlier that year.
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