Could this be the end of the line for the old-fashioned telephone call?

CHICAGO -- Imagine the way people once used the telephone: You dialed your number and your voice was carried along landlines connected to telephone poles across the country. The no-frills phone worked well in its day.

And people like 75-year old Michele Charous see no need to change something that works.

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Michele Charous shows how she puts her landline phone on her shoulder to talk "for literally hours." 

CBS News

"My landline, I can talk for, literally hours. The phone goes right here," she said as she gestured to her shoulder "and I just sit there and talk. The battery never dies."

But demand for 21st century phone technology is crowding her and the 400,000 other households in Illinois where phones use landlines. It's about 10 percent of AT&T's phone business.

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Illinois' state legislature and those in 19 other states where AT&T is the primary carrier have voted to allow AT&T to end landline service in order to invest more in wireless or internet-based phone networks.

But consumer advocate Jim Chilsen of the Citizens Utility Board says the change would fall disproportionately on seniors.

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Jim Chilsen

CBS News

"What we are talking about is some of Illinois' most vulnerable phone customers who depend on a reliable landline connection to give them 911 service, medical monitoring services and home security systems," he said.

Customers like Michele Charous, who says her "life would be at stake for emergencies" if forced to change away from her landline.

The bill still needs the governor's signature and regulatory approval.

In the meantime though, AT&T says 5,000 Illinois customers are voluntarily dropping their landline connection every week.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.