The FCC received a flood of complaints over the holiday season protesting Windstream's application to discontinue DSL service for about 300 SMB customers.
Last November, Windstream submitted an FCC application to discontinue DSL services to about 300 small and midsize customers in CLEC territories across 22 states, saying that "The Services are being provided on equipment that is at the end of life, it is no longer supported by vendors and replacement would be cost prohibitive."
Windstream insisted that its customers wouldn't suffer from the discontinuance because they were being given plenty of warning and they had "comparable options at comparable rates from other providers serving" the areas.
Windstream's customers disagreed. A lot of them.
In a slew of complaints to the FCC, customers expressed a range of protests. One commenter from Raleigh worried about the "detrimental health effects of exposure to wireless transmissions, on young children in particular" that would arise from the elimination of copper landlines. It's a concern echoed by many of the more than 150 complaints.
Rural customers are concerned that in the case of electric or internet outages, they'd have no way to communicate with the outside world without landlines. "We have rural property that can only access the Internet via a land line phone system," read a comment from Ann Arbor, Mich.
A California-based commenter protested that companies such as Windstream are "forcing people to use cell phones, with no pretext of listening to what members of the public want and need...and the companies offering landline services have profited greatly by public investment and should not be allowed to destroy a communication system generations of the American public has paid for through subsidy, fixed profit allowances, and use of public lands."
Several complaints expressed concerns about security. "The telecom industry has been pushing wireless phones relentlessly, in spite of...the clear challenges they present to security," wrote a commenter from Chicago. In particular, respondents were concerned about the potential failure, through natural disaster or cyberattack, of cellular networks.
For its part, Windstream said in its reply that “the vast majority of commenters are not Windstream customers and are not affected by the proposed discontinuance.” The company also pointed out that "all of the comments filed in this proceeding are from individuals." Since its discontinuance only affects small businesses, Windstream states that none of the commenters will be affected by the action.
That seems like a flimsy defense considering that an individual name, not a company name, is required to file a complaint, and it's entirely within the realm of possibility that small business owners affected by the discontinuance filed under their residential address. In any case, the barrage of comments represents a growing percentage of the public that is becoming vocal about its preference for landline communication.
Might channel partners soon find themselves searching for ever-decreasing options for hardwired phones for customers in a market that's pushing wireless communication? Give your opinion in the comments below.