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OP-ED | Seniors Embrace New Technology

by | Apr 9, 2013 10:44am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion

When it comes to choices for telecommunications services, consumers in Connecticut have more options than ever. One need only turn on their television to see the multitude of advertisements for wireless, home phone, cable and internet services

Given these choices, consumers, including seniors, are abandoning old technology for newer ones. In Connecticut, some 10,000 customers a month are switching from traditional wireline phone service to newer, faster, and less expensive phone technology. 

Connecticut’s telecom laws have not kept pace with consumer demand and that’s why it’s important that the legislature pass long overdue telecom modernization legislation. Selfishly, this legislation provides many opportunities for seniors to become more involved and informed on many topics, including those offered on health and human services and the ever growing field of telemedicine.

House Bill 6402, “An Act Modernizing the State’s Telecommunications Laws,” would eliminate outdated regulations, many dating back to the days of the old rotary phone and party lines. Although many of us seniors can remember those days we now appreciate the advances in telecommunications and the benefits it brings to seniors. One only has to visit our senior center to realize that the senior of today bears no resemblance to those of past decades. By eliminating these unnecessary and costly rules, telecom companies can then take those resources that were going toward old technology and invest them in their new telecom networks of the 21st century.

Newer technology benefits all, particularly seniors, who are utilizing telemedicine and in-home health monitoring services that are helping them stay healthier and independent longer. 

I would hope that organizations like AARP would be supportive of modernizing telecommunications laws. AARP has embraced new technology and competes in the wireless phone service market by offering discounted service to its more than 7 million members nationwide, which is admirable. I would like these organizations to take a closer look at this legislation and see the benefit it brings to seniors while protecting those who continue and choose to enjoy the days of the rotary phone.

I have heard that AARP is telling seniors that if legislation is passed, their telecom competitors would be able to take away their landline phone. This doesn’t make sense and is simply is not true. Telecommunications providers are in the business of providing service, not taking service away. Furthermore, there is nothing in HB 6402 that would allow companies to stop offering basic local phone service in Connecticut.

Let’s pass House Bill 6402, “An Act Modernizing the State’s Telecommunication’s Laws,” and move on to the new Century.

Paula C. Ferrara is the executive director of the Estuary Council.

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Archived Comment

posted by: Nora Duncan, State Director, AARP CT | April 9, 2013  5:46pm

While AT&T and its supporters try to depict AARP as stuck in the past, our opposition to HB6402 is not based on any nostalgia for the rotary telephone or disregard for the advantages of new technology. It’s based on our commitment to ensure the safety and security of older residents and protections for today’s consumers. 

AARP supports universal affordable and reliable advanced technology, including affordable broadband, wireless and wireline service.  We recognize and embrace the value of telemedicine to the elderly, Internet access to those with limited mobility or who are homebound (or who just want to stay in touch with loved ones far away), cell phones and smart phones to those on the move.  However, as society forges ahead with new technologies, we must not abandon key consumer protections in the process.  Older residents have made it clear that while they embrace new technology, they continue to value their landline telephone for the safety, security and reliability it offers, especially during power outages or other emergencies when battery back-up and network failures can prevent access to 911. 

If AT&T gets its way, it will continue to shift investment away from maintaining the reliability of its traditional network in order to maximize profits for its shareholders.  This lack of investment will hurt reliability and cause rates to increase, putting basic phone service at risk, as well as anyone whose landline includes features such as Caller ID, Call-Waiting and long distance. 

Consumer advocacy organizations across Connecticut, including AARP, strongly believe that our state can move forward with modernizing its network while simultaneously protecting its consumers.  Instead of allowing AT&T to walk away from what it deems “outdated” technology, the state should continue to protect consumers by regulating these services. 

Nora Duncan
State Director, AARP
[email protected]

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