AT&T Slow to Fix Phone Service After Storm

Update Dec. 22, 2014: Ron Olsen has since received two calls from AT&T, one to ensure all repairs had been made and the second was to offer $100 credit for his 10 days without service.

Thousands of Southern Californians could lose their home phone service on landlines during this week's heavy rains, the NBC4 I-Team has learned.

That's because companies such as AT&T still depend on miles of decades-old, antiquated phone cables under the streets that are insulated with paper.

"If (the phone cables) get wet, the paper gets wet, and they short out," an AT&T technician, who asked not to be named, told the I-Team. When the cables short out, he added, residents lose dial tone on their home phone.

Even though many people now depend on their cellphones, in a big power outage landlines might still work when wireless service could go down, said consumer advocate Regina Costa of The Utility Reform Network.

During last week's heavy rain, the I-Team heard from numerous viewers who lost their home phone service for days, including Ron Olsen of Studio City.

Olsen's phone went dead for nine days, along with his Internet and the security system on his front gate, which is connected to his landline.

"Nine days," Olsen said. "I mean, this is ridiculous."

AT&T declined NBC4's request for an interview, but said in an email the company's technicians were working quickly to restore service to customers.

Olsen said he called AT&T at least six times to get his phone fixed, and even called the office of the company's President, but got no response.

It was only after the I-Team asked AT&T why Olsen's landline was still on the blink after nine days, that the company sent three repair trucks to fix it.

"It's Joel Grover and the Channel 4 I-Team to the rescue," Olsen wrote on his blog.

Consumer advocates expect more customers to lose their home phone service during Friday's rains and face long waits to get service restored.

"These companies (like AT&T) have a legal obligation to maintain their networks and they're not doing it," Costa said.

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