Carrier of Last Resort (COLR)

AT&T has requested to be relieved of its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligations in certain areas of California. If approved, AT&T California (landline service, separate from cellular) would no longer be required to offer landline telephone service where it is currently required to offer Basic Service in those areas. Basic Service includes nine service elements such as Lifeline rates for eligible customers, free access to 9-1-1, Telephone Relay Service, and directory and operator services. More information on Basic Service is available at here.

On May 10, 2024, the CPUC issued a proposal rejecting AT&T’s request to withdraw as a COLR and indicating the CPUC intends to initiate a new Rulemaking process to address COLR telecommunications service obligations. This proposal will be on the CPUC’s June 20 Voting Meeting agenda and can be reviewed in full here.

What is a COLR?

A COLR is a telecommunications service provider that stands ready to provide basic telephone service, commonly landline telephone service, to any customer requesting such service within a specified area. At least one telephone company in a specified area is legally required to provide access to telephone service to anyone in its service territory who requests it. This is known as the Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligation, which ensures that everyone in California has access to safe, reliable, and affordable telephone service. AT&T is the designated COLR in many parts of the state and is the largest COLR in California. Where AT&T is the default landline telephone service provider means that the company must provide traditional landline telephone service to any potential customer in that service territory. AT&T is proposing to withdraw as the COLR in your area without a new carrier being designated as a COLR.

What areas are impacted by AT&T’s request to withdraw as a COLR?

Here is the list of census designated places where AT&T is requesting to withdraw as the designated COLR and here is an online version of the map with address lookup.

What might happen if AT&T withdraws as a COLR?

An area without a COLR could mean that there would be no landline telephone company serving that area and that there could possibly be no landline telephone access for customers in that area. If AT&T’s proposal were accepted as set forth in its application, then no COLR would be required to provide basic service in your area. This does not necessarily mean that no carriers would, in fact, provide service in your area—only that they would not be required to do so.  Other outcomes are possible, such as another carrier besides AT&T volunteering to become the COLR in your area, or the CPUC denying AT&T’s proposal. Refer to Application 23-03-003 for more information on AT&T’s request.

Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) Designation

In addition, on March 3, 2023, AT&T requested to give up its designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). Refer to Application 23-03-002 for more information, as well as the Administrative Law Judge’s January 12, 2024 ruling establishing a revised schedule for this proceeding and the Assigned Commissioner’s September 20, 2023 Scoping Memo setting forth the issues in the proceeding.

What is an ETC?

An ETC is a telephone company operating in a specific geographic area, that receives financial assistance from the federal government-established Universal Service Fund to provide high quality, and affordable telephone service to customers at all income levels in specific geographic areas. One example of a program funded by the Universal Service Fund is federal Lifeline. While funding for this program is provided by the federal government, each state determines a telephone company’s eligibility for ETC designation. In California, a company’s eligibility for these federal funds is determined by the CPUC.

Does an ETC provide California LifeLine?

In California, the CPUC also approves and denies applications for state funding for programs to provide universal support, including California LifeLine (California’s program is called LifeLine with a capital “L” for “Line”). The California LifeLine program is separate from the federal Lifeline program. An ETC may be a provider of California LifeLine as well as federal Lifeline, but eligibility to provide California LifeLine is not limited to only ETC providers.

What is AT&T’s request in this application?

AT&T is applying to give up its ETC designation, which would allow it to no longer offer federal Lifeline, as well as other federal programs designed to subsidize telecommunications support for low-income individuals and individuals located in remote areas. AT&T’s participation in the California LifeLine program is a separate matter from this application to give up its ETC designation. AT&T asserts that it is not necessary to keep its ETC designation because it no longer receives any federal high-cost support from the federal government to provide universal service. By relinquishing its ETC designation, AT&T will no longer be eligible to receive federal support to provide Lifeline, which could potentially affect all current AT&T Lifeline customers.

What areas are impacted by AT&T’s request to give up its ETC designation?

All areas of AT&T’s service territory where it currently holds ETC designation, which is the same as its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) service territory, could be impacted if the CPUC approves AT&T’s application. Here is a map of the different COLR service territories in California, including AT&T’s.

What are the potential impacts on customers’ bills?

For a household receiving federal Lifeline from AT&T, the bill could increase by $5.25 per month for voice-only service, or $9.25 per month for bundled or internet service. In addition to these amounts, a household on Tribal lands receiving federal Lifeline from AT&T could experience an additional $25 per month bill increase.

What is required of AT&T for the CPUC to approve AT&T’s request?

AT&T must demonstrate that another ETC provider can provide universal support in the areas where AT&T wishes to surrender its ETC designation. Refer to the docket card for Application A.23-03-002. For more information on Eligible Telecommunications Carrier designation, please visit this webpage

Links to AT&T’s applications: A.23-03-002 and A.23-03-003.

Opportunities for Public Comment and Participation

The CPUC  will hold in-person and virtual public forums for customers of AT&T to provide input into the company’s two proposals to remove its obligation under California to provide voice services in its service territories. 




February 6, 2024, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

In-person only

Clovis City Council Chambers
1033 5th St., Clovis, CA 93612

February 22, 2024, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

In-person only

Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
501 Low Gap Rd., Room 1070, Ukiah, CA 95482

March 14, 2024, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

In-person only

Indio City Hall Council Chambers
100 Civic Center Mall, Indio, CA 92201

March 19, 2024, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Virtual only

Remote access via webcast or phone.
More information below.


WHAT: The public forums will begin with a brief overview of AT&T’s proposals, then parties to the proceeding may provide brief overviews, and then public comments will be heard. At least one representative from AT&T will be available to answer questions about individual customer bills or service. 

Remote Access Options for the March 19th VIrtual Public Forums:  

  • Live video broadcast with English or Spanish captions via webcast:
    • Participants who choose to view via webcast will have audio and video but will not be able to make verbal comments. If you would like to make comment during the forums, refer to the phone-in information below.
    • For captions, after clicking on the name of the meeting, click the green button below the video for captions. Then select captions by clicking on the white icon next to the word “live” at the bottom of the video.
    • The public forums will be recorded and archived for future viewing.
  • Phone: 1-800-857-1917, passcode: 6032788#
    • Participants will have audio and will be able to make comments. (To make a comment, after entering the passcode, when prompted press *1, unmute your phone, and record your name.)
    • Wait times depend on the number of speakers in the public comment queue. During times of high call volumes, wait times will be longer. The operator will call on you when it is your turn to speak.

Customers can also make their voice heard in the proceedings, and read the comments of others, on the proceeding’s Docket Card comment section for A.23-03-002 and A.23-03-003.

For more information on the proceedings or participating in the CPUC’s process, contact the CPUC’s Public Advisor’s Office by emailing, calling 1-866-849-8390, or reviewing the Public Advisor’s Office webpage.

Quick Links

AT&T's Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) Proceeding

AT&T's Eligible Telecommunictions Carrier (ETC) Proceeding

Other Helpful Information