Chicago, IL- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn released a study today, Wednesday, June 9, 2004 detailing - county-by-county - the number of Illinois households without access to a telephone.
Quinn joined Citizens Utility Board Executive Director Marty Cohen, Executive Director of Citizen Action William McNary, elected officials, community and religious leaders, and others who argued that the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) should reject SBC’s latest wholesale rate increase proposal which will force even more Illinois residents into “phonelessness”.
A decision by the ICC on SBC’s request is imminent, expected as soon as this week.
According to the study conducted by the Lieutenant Governor’s office, an estimated 138,500 Illinois households (3.0 percent of total households) are without phone access, the highest percentage in the Midwest and above the national average (2.4 percent). Only thirteen states have worse “phonelessness” than Illinois.
At least one in 20 households lack phone service in more than 25 Illinois counties, according to Quinn’s study. One in eight Alexander and Pope County homes are phoneless, as well as nearly 70,000 Cook County households.
“This is a potentially life-threatening problem for senior citizens, inner city residents and especially rural Illinois households,” Quinn said. “When seconds count in a medical, weather or other emergency crisis, the absence of a telephone can be fatal. SBC’s latest rate hike scheme will push thousands of Illinois consumers into phonelessness and subject them to greater physical risks.”
The absence of phone service and resulting social isolation was cited as one reason more than 700 people perished during the deadly 1995 heat wave in Cook County.
“Phonelessness makes it tough for out-of-town relatives to contact elderly loved ones,” Quinn said. “This is a vital lifeline for many Illinois residents, but Texas-giant SBC wants to jeopardize this lifeline to boost profits. The Illinois Commerce Commission should reject SBC’s request for a phone rate increase.”
This is SBC’s second recent attempt to force higher rates on Illinois consumers. Last year, Quinn was a leader of the grassroots coalition which set out to halt SBC’s plan to double rates for residential and small-business customers while eliminating competition.
“SBC is a company which has been fined more than $123 million for lousy service and anti-competitive practices,” Quinn said. “Now, they want a rate increase that will inevitably result in thousands of Illinois consumers losing their phone service all together.”