Wednesday, July 3, 2013

AARP vs Verizon Landline Service in New York

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is voicing its concerns over Verizon’s proposal to replace wireline networks in portions of New York and surrounding areas. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the damage that it caused to Verizon’s copper landlines, the service provider plans to turn off those networks in the western portion of Fire Island and some New Jersey Barrier communities, and replace it with wireless Voice Link technology.

AARP is arguing that the proposal Verizon filed with the New York Public Service Commission is too broad and could lead to more widespread shutdowns of Verizon’s wireline services. State director for AARP in New York Beth Finkel said in a statement, "Under the cover of Sandy, this push by Verizon could well work towards advancing the company's corporate strategy of steering customers towards more expensive services, but that doesn't match up to protecting the needs and interests of consumers."

AARP’s primary concerns over the switch to Voice Link include compatibility issues with Life Alert and security systems, the possibility of premature and widespread abandonment of wireline services, limitation of Internet service options for Voice Link customers and the end of access to services like collect calling and “0” dial-in access for operators.

In response, Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said, “As usual, the AARP is crying wolf. Instead of the dire possibilities it suggests, Verizon Voice Link is a robust solution that provides more reliable voice service to customers who have experienced lingering or intermittent wireline service issues. Voice Link uses our tried and true wireless network, which stands up well in emergency situations and which millions of people use millions of times each day. Decades-old copper wiring is far more prone to failure during weather emergencies, unlike advanced wireless networks.”

Bonomo said that Verizon will maintain the copper network where it makes customer service and business sense to do so, adding that the vast majority of Verizon copper customers have no issues at all with their service.

In a guest editorial on Stop the Cap, Tom Maguire, Verizon’s senior vice president of network operations support, said Verizon’s research showed that 80 percent of the voice traffic on Fire Island is already wireless. He argued that the estimated $4.8-$6 million cost to rebuild the network there doesn’t make economic sense without no guarantee that customers will subscribe to it. Maguire admitted that Voice Link doesn’t support data but said that Verizon is working to change that. He added that Voice Link was never intended for customers who subscribe to DSL and that Verizon remains committed to repairing copper whenever a DSL customer’s service is interrupted.

However, I question: What about the taxes, universal service fees, and other telecommunications charges that are added to our home, business, and wireless phones each month? Part of those fees help subsidize and support E-911 for emergency personnel and our local/state/federal government... But don't some of those taxes/fees/surcharges go to the telecommunications company, like Verizon, directly to help build and maintain the network infrastructure in incidences such as this? Those fees go directly to support telephone companies' efforts to provide access to the network in all areas of the country, even rural areas as mandated by the FCC. But since major companies like Verizon and AT&T are trying to force consumers in rural areas off the older and more expensive copper networks and on to a digital or wireless solution, wouldn't that free up additional funds to help subsidize or support this endeavor to fix and repair the damage done by the hurricane? Food for thought...
Voice Link is © 2013 Verizon

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