Maryann Tobin

AT&T is leading the charge of lobbyists for new laws that would no longer require mandatory land line service. The war is being waged state by state, as more American's get their telephone service through wireless providers.

"Bill sponsors and phone companies including AT&T say deregulating land-line phone service will increase competition and allow carriers to invest in better technology rather than expand a dying service. Some consumer organizations fear the change will hurt affordable service, especially in rural areas," according to the Detroit Free Press.

However as with past deregulation of the communications industry, the result may only lead to higher prices for consumers and lack of service for locations that will not generate great enough profits for service providers.

For example, several years ago, Florida residents were told that deregulating the cable television industry would spark competition and give them more choices. However it only caused residents to pay more for their service, and in some rural areas, left them with no competition at all. Within a year, the lack of competition caused prices for basic cable television service to more than double, from about $17 a month to more than $50.

Wisconsin and Indiana have already adopted the new laws that end landline service requirements, and other states are expected to follow.

It is unclear exactly how eliminating requirements for landline service will effect lower income people if service in rural locations becomes either too expensive or unavailable. The hardest hit would likely be the elderly, who might lose access to 911 calls for medical care and other emergency communication needs.