Yesterday, Verizon faced complaints from customers and government officials about maintenance of its copper network in areas of New Jersey. Hearings were held by the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on Verizon service in rural parts of South Jersey, where the company hasn’t upgraded its networks to fiber. About 200 “frustrated residents” attended and nearly 80 signed up to speak, airing their complaints for hours, according to a story on NJ.com.
Theresa Duffy-Diamond of Cedarville owns three businesses but complained that she has trouble running them because of how hard it is to make phone calls. She played a voicemail that she received—it contained “nothing but crackling sounds,” the article said.
63-year-old John Dowling of Estell Manor, who suffers from a chronic lung disease and needs frequent medical attention, reported not being able to make phone calls from his landline when it rains. When he complains to Verizon, “four days later they would come out on a sunny day and say the lines are all clear,” he said.
Another resident described waiting months for DSL Internet service to be connected and being billed by Verizon before it was delivered, the Press of Atlantic City reported last night.
A coalition of municipal and county governments asked the state to hold an evidentiary hearing to further investigate Verizon’s copper maintenance. Speaking on the coalition’s behalf, “Cumberland County Counsel Ted Baker told the BPU of more than 500 complaints from residents who lose landline phone service on rainy days, constantly contend with static during telephone conversations, and have poor Internet service,” the Press of Atlantic City article said. “Local and county governments face potentially serious public safety issues because of communication difficulties, small businesses are suffering, and students can’t access the Internet for homework assignments,” he said.
Baker last week provided the BPU with more than 80 pages of complaints from residents.
Mayor Kenneth Haeser of Weymouth Township said one elderly woman in his town received a call from the hospital informing her of her husband’s death—but it was raining and “the connection was so bad the conversation was incomprehensible,” according to the Press.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew called the problems a matter of “life or death,” and said the best solution would be for Verizon to install fiber lines. The BPU also heard from state Division of Rate Counsel Director Stephanie Brand, who urged “action and intervention by the board.” The BPU took no action last night, though.
Verizon’s director of regulatory services, Ava-Marie Madeam, defended the company, saying that “Verizon is not abandoning our copper line network in South Jersey,” according to the Press. “The copper network is a critical part of our overall network structure. Any suggestion that Verizon is not committed to the copper network is simply not true.” Verizon has met state operating standards and invested $100 million the past two years on maintenance of copper in South Jersey, she said.
Verizon recently promised that it has a “few projects” in the works to improve service in South Jersey.