Senate Bill 636 will not lead to removal of landline phones

To the Editor, The laws that come out of Lansing clearly have an impact throughout the state, so it’s important to know and understand the laws that affect our communities and personal lives. Senate Bill 636, recently passed by the Michigan Senate and House regarding technology upgrades to telephone service in Michigan, has been widely misunderstood. Contrary to what some groups are saying, this bill will not remove landline telephone service or force consumers to switch to cell phone use exclusively. In fact, you may continue to use the same telephone you currently use, and if you have Comcast or Charter telephone service, the upgrades to your landline have most likely already been completed.SB 636 also ensures that customers maintain access to telephone services, but if residents feel they are no longer receiving comparable service with the new technology, they can contact the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to investigate the situation. If the MPSC finds the service isn’t comparable, the telecom provider is obligated by law to provide the original level of service to those affected.Because of the issue’s complexity and the importance of people’s safety, the Legislature has approached this reform with extreme caution and spent many hours studying the effects of SB 636. Part of my research included how medical devices such as pacemakers can be tested over a telephone, as my parents used to do. Medical alert services and 911 services are both compatible with Voice Over Internet Phone (VOIP) technology. Emergency Services are not at risk because there are current laws that mandates every resident have access to 911 services, and that will not change. The law even demands that the technology work for an extended period of time during power outages.This measure makes it easier for telephone companies to invest in new types of technology, helping our state move from analog to digital technology, including Voice Over Internet technology to keep up with the times. It also controls costs through lower maintenance expenses — savings that will help to provide more effective, less costly telephone service for Michigan customers.In recent years, the number of residents who use telephone landlines has dropped from 7.5 million users to 2.5 million users, and a total of 83 percent of all 911 calls on the AT&T network last year were made on a cell phone. Today, more than 80 percent of senior households have wireless phone service. But, let’s be clear, SB 636 does not eliminate wired telephone service to people’s homes.Many residents would still prefer to use a more traditional landline, and this bill provides the best of both worlds — allowing customers to choose their phone service while still allowing phone companies to find more efficient ways of providing that service.Technology advances are nothing new, even though they seem to be coming at a faster pace then ever. This bill allows our state to move forward with innovative technology that is affordable, reliable, and an improvement in the quality of life for Michigan residents. These changes will not go into effect until 2017, providing additional time for telephone companies to identify potential problems and meet state and federal law. Dale W. ZornState Representative District 56, Ida

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110 E. Logan St.
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Tecumseh, MI 49286

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