AT&T loses key ruling in attempt to escape Carrier-of-Last-Resort obligation

AT&T loses key ruling in attempt to escape Carrier-of-Last-Resort obligation

Getty Images | Joe Raedle

AT&T’s application to end its landline phone obligations in California is likely to be rejected by state officials following protest from residents worried about losing access to phone lines.

An administrative law judge at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recommended rejection of the application in a proposed decision released Friday. The CPUC is set to vote on finalizing the proposed decision at its June 20 meeting.

Administrative Law Judge Thomas Glegola found that AT&T’s application to end its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligation should be dismissed with prejudice. State rules require a replacement COLR in order to relieve AT&T of its duties, but there is no other COLR in AT&T’s wireline territory “and no potential COLR volunteered to replace AT&T,” he wrote.

“It is not clear why AT&T filed this Application, under existing rules, and then attempted to convince the Commission that it should ignore its rules, based on flawed and erroneous assertions regarding the law and regulatory policy that slowed down the adjudication of this proceeding,” Glegola wrote.

AT&T accused of false claims

The proposed decision said AT&T falsely claims that commission rules “require AT&T to retain outdated copper-based landline facilities that are expensive to maintain, or that AT&T needs Commission approval in order to be able to retire copper facilities and instead, invest in more modern technologies such as VoIP, wireless, and fiber.”

In reality, Glegola wrote, the CPUC “does not have rules preventing AT&T from retiring copper facilities. Furthermore, the Commission does not have rules preventing AT&T from investing in fiber or other facilities/technologies to improve its network.”

AT&T has replaced copper lines with fiber in the more profitable areas of its network. “If AT&T’s arguments were accurate, this activity [AT&T’s fiber deployment projects in California] would be illegal,” the proposed decision said.

The utility commission appears likely to approve Glegola’s proposed decision.

“After hearing from consumers across the state and reviewing the evidence in the record, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today issued a proposal rejecting AT&T’s request to withdraw as a carrier of last resort (COLR) and indicating that the CPUC intends to initiate a new Rulemaking process to address COLR telecommunications service obligations,” a CPUC press release said on Friday.

The new rulemaking would consider whether the state’s carrier-of-last-resort rules should be revised, the proposed decision said.

Ending AT&T’s COLR obligation would make it easier for the company to drop its phone lines, though AT&T said it won’t do so right away. AT&T’s application said the company would keep providing basic phone service in all areas for at least six months and for longer in areas without any alternative voice service.

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