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Hanging up? . . . Landlines could become a thing of the past if new legislation goes through. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

North Otago people are being urged to speak up to save their landline telephone service.

Oamaru resident Rick Loos is concerned that landlines could disappear under legislation being considered by Parliament’s Economic Development, Science and Innovation (EDSI) Select Committee.

“If the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Bill passes, it could result in copper landline services being phased out in areas of New Zealand where fibre optic cables have been installed, forcing residents to have either VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) or wireless for their phone service,” Mr Loos said.

“There has been very little communication with the public about this important issue and citizens who tried to voice their concerns by phone before the original February 2 deadline found the Government’s landline was disconnected.

“Complaints to the EDSI committee led to the deadline being extended to March 30 – but only for members of Grey Power.”

Mr Loos said the copper-based landlines had proven reliable for decades, ensuring “an essential back-up service during civil emergencies”.

They also allowed “a safe, low-cost wired internet connection”, he said.

A movement called Save Our Landlines NZ was calling, on its Facebook page, for a 30-year moratorium on removing the copper landlines.

Mr Loos said submissions on the subject could be made by emailing the select committee at edsi@parliament.govt.nz or writing to the Committee Secretariat, Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee, Parliament Buildings.

Another option was taking a letter to the North Otago branch of Grey Power at Community House, 100 Thames St, Oamaru. It would forward the letters to Parliament.

Grey Power North Otago secretary Graeme Leather said a cell phone was more expensive to use than a landline “and, according to the World Health Organisation, is ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.”

“Or you could hook up your landline to the fibre optic cables in one of two ways,” Mr Leather said.

“First, you could get the cables run from the street to your house. In most cases, installation is free if you agree to a new broadband/telephone plan, which more than likely will increase your monthly bill.

“Second, you could buy a wireless box that will connect your telephone to the new cables. Costs of these boxes vary.”

The big advantage of copper-wire telephone lines was that the phones worked even when there was no power, so they were good during emergencies, he said.

“Fibre optic cables require electricity. Suppliers of these cables state that a battery back-up system will keep the phones operating in an emergency, but for how long is uncertain.

“There is also a possibility that your medical or security alarm system may not work on fibre optics. A new or modified system may be needed.

“If you would like to keep your corded home phone as well as low-cost wired connection to the internet, there is still time to tell the select committee.”