"We have got to keep up in
AT&T is bound by laws that date to when the telephone business was a regulated monopoly -- a time Harris characterized as the era of "the rotary dial pone on the wall, when if you wanted privacy you just bought a really long cord."
Today, numerous companies -- cable TV companies, wireless carriers and more -- compete for phone business. Increasingly, telephone calls are handled over the Internet -- a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, which is offered by companies ranging from
Many people are discontinuing having a landline altogether. "Forty-one percent of households are wireless only," Harris said.
But AT&T said it is obligated to provide basic phone service via copper-wire landlines using old, voice-only technology. "Our guys are buying switches for the old network off
There is resistance to changing state law. "There are those who say, we can't do this -- that if we go to IP technology, someone will lose their phone service or won't be able to call 911," Harris said.
"They're scare tactics," he said.
"Some of our competitors" -- who aren't bound by the state regulation -- "are trying to gin up those fears," Harris said.
"Seventeen other states have passed laws, and not one person has lost service and not one person has lost access to 911," he insisted. " ... Seventy percent of 911 calls today come from wireless devices."
Harris said AT&T has proposed to continue to provide copper-wire service in territories already served by those wires without being required to extend new phone lines into new areas.
Resistance has been especially stiff in
The bill won some support for the measure during the 2014
"It never got to a vote on the House floor," Harris said.
As a result, AT&T has announced it will bring new technologies such as GigaPower -- an ultrafast fiber network that would deliver data at speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, 10 times faster than the fastest consumer Internet available in most cities today -- to cities in states that have changed their telecommunications law, such as
"We've let state after state get ahead of us; they're in line" for such investments, Harris said. "We're investing
Kyndle has supported telecommunication law reform for years, President
"It's not just about AT&T," he said. "As an economic development agency, we understand the importance of infrastructure. That's the kind of investment that's important to what we do."
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