It's not your grandmother's phone company anymore. Ma Bell, as AT&T was once known, made its name - and its money - on the landline telephone. Now the telephone giant has other plans. AT&T wants the FCC to eliminate regulations required to maintain a landline network while addressing issues on whether individual states or federal government should oversee telephone service over the Internet.
It's not your grandmother's phone company anymore.
Ma Bell, as AT&T was once known, made its name - and its money - on the landline telephone. Now the telephone giant has other plans.
"It makes no sense to require service providers to operate and maintain two distinct networks when technology and consumer preferences have made one of them increasingly obsolete," noted Dallas-based AT&T in a communication to the Federal Communications Commission last month.
AT&T wants the FCC to eliminate regulations required to maintain a landline network while addressing issues on whether individual states or federal government should oversee telephone service over the Internet.
While about one-fifth of all U.S. households have already cut the cord - switching to wireless telephones only, according to a recent survey by the Nielsen Co. - the Internet has become a major vehicle for telephone service.
Voice Over Internet Protocol service has picked up with carriers such as Vonage and cable TV companies. As many as 18 million households now use a VoIP service, according to AT&T.
Another major phone company, New York City-based Verizon Communications Inc., has also taken steps to move away from traditional telephone service.
Last year, Verizon announced plans to sell off landlines in Illinois and 13 other states to Stamford, Conn.-based Frontier Communications.
The $8.6 billion transaction not only requires FCC approval but also needs nine of the 14 states involved to sign off on the deal, said Frontier spokesman Steve Crosby. "We expect to close the deal in the second quarter of this year," he said.
While Verizon looks to sell almost 5 million lines in mostly rural areas (out of the company's total of 35 million lines), a change is taking place, said telecom analyst Jeff Kagan.
"The entire telecom industry is transforming. Because of all the new competition, the actual phone companies are losing phone lines. So they're moving into other business opportunities like cellular and television and Internet," said Kagan, speaking from his office in Marietta, Ga.
"Over the last several years, Verizon has been adjusting their footprint. They want to be a provider in the larger markets and are moving away from the smaller markets," he said.
"Companies like Frontier focus on more of the smaller markets so customers may be better off," said Kagan.
Crosby said Frontier welcomes new landline customers. "This company is 70 years old. We know how to work in rural areas. We see ourselves as a company that serves the small towns," he said.
"We know there are other opportunities for customers but we're very focused on the current plan. We feel we can have an impact (with landline service) and by offering broadband services," said Crosby, acknowledging that Frontier is conducting its own trial on wireless service in Tennessee.
Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.