Ohio Representatives To Decide Fate of Ohio Land Lines

Credit: Cleveland.com[/caption]

On September 21 of this year Apple Inc. premiered their latest technological marvel that we all have to have . The iPhone 5 released to mixed reviews, but no matter which side of the Apple Maps debate you find yourself, you have to admit the modern cell phone is incredible.

These devices can check your email, find your car keys, and are probably pretty close to being able to cook our dinners and do our laundry. The explosive gains made in the world of cellular technology in the past five years have revolutionized the communication industry, and as a result an interesting question is beginning to make its way onto the desks of lawmakers around the country: do we still need land lines?

When it reconvenes later this month, the Ohio House of Representatives will become the most recent group of legislators to consider this question by voting on Senate Bill 271. The bill would end the requirement for major telecommunications companies to comply with Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) requirements. The COLR requirements mandate that these companies provide service upon request even if said service is not economically viable for the company. In this case, that means channeling copper-wire land lines into their service areas.

The aforementioned explosion in the tech industry has rendered copper lines more and more obsolete in the wake of modern fiber optics. This means that the .com industry is finding itself expending masses of capital in order to make available a service that very few customers have taken advantage of Senate Bill 27 would remove these requirements and has generated a fair amount of controversy in the state of Ohio.

The core of the opposition is the American Association of Retired Persons (now known as the AARP). The Association argues that, while the advances in technology are beneficial to most, they are alienating to some. Specifically the Association holds that should the COLR requirements be made moot, thousands of senior citizens will be left without a source of communication.

The protests of the AARP are challenged by the bills main proponent, AT&T. AT&T and other Ohio tech groups are bombarding Ohio’s state reps with the argument that the drain on resources made by this seemingly obsolete technology hurt these massive companies ability to perform. The industry states that if the COLR requirements were repealled, the industry would be able to flourish and provide more jobs and revenue for the Ohio economy. AT&T carries a lot of weight in Ohio, but despite their influence, the bill is sill opposed by nearly 75% of Ohio citizens.

Regardless of the negative public opinion the bill passed with only two ‘nay’ votes in the Ohio Senate. Later this month, the bill will face the lame duck House where Republicans, who generally support the bill, will attempt to ram the bill past the objections of the minority Democrats. One source inside the Ohio House Democratic Caucus has made it clear that the Democratic reps will not cast a ‘yea’ vote unless public opinion becomes more favorable, which could be achieved by an amendment to the bill that makes allotments for senor citizens.

The bill reflects our changing world, where technology is redefining everything from the way we talk to our families to the way we read our books. Whether or not the bill passes, the clock is ticking on those parts of society that refuse to adapt to the new reality of the online world.