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Connecticut

AARP Connecticut Ready for Legislative Battle Over Landlines

AARP ready for legislative battle over phone service

Leo and Kathy Null, helped AARP fight a proposal to allow phone companies to drop landlines without regulatory approval.

Leo and Kathy Null helped AARP fight a proposal to allow phone companies to drop landlines without regulatory approval. — Gina LeVay

Kathy Null said if she lost her landline, she and her husband would need to drive 30 minutes to the doctor's office for a pacemaker checkup.

While there are monitors that can be used with cellphones, Leo's doctor did not recommend them. Plus, cellphone reception where they live is spotty.

The bill's supporters said existing rules are outdated in an era when people can choose cellphones and Internet audio and video calling services such as Vonage and Skype.

But opponents said that for many older people, those options aren't real choices because of expense, poor reception or the need for a landline to use a medical device.

Feeling safe

Even if her husband didn't have a pacemaker that required a landline for medical checkups, Kathy Null said a landline makes her feel safe.

A 911 emergency call from a landline "is going to tell the person on the other side exactly where you are. Your cellphone does not," she said. "As I get older, that's something I have to be mindful of."

Vallée complained that "there will simply be no 'basic service' telephone access available in very short order.

"This has profound effects on the elderly population, as they are far less likely to subscribe to bundled services, either by lack of interest or cost considerations. State regulation is their last hope to be able to purchase POTS services, a virtual lifeline, and that bulkhead is eroding," he said.

AARP Connecticut also will urge the legislature to:

  • Block mandatory smart meters, which measure energy usage and transmit readings to the utility company. AARP says smart meters lead to tiered pricing, which hurts retired people who are home during the day and are unable to take advantage of off-peak rates.
  • Increase funding and options for home- and community-based care.
  • Restore the property tax credit to $500 from $300.

To help with the legislative agenda, call the volunteer coordinator at 866-295-7279 toll-free or email ctaarp@aarp.org. The time commitment is flexible, and training is available.

Natalie Missakian is a writer living in Cheshire, Conn.

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