updated 02:14 pm EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
Emergency filing made to CPUC, preventing more expensive migration
California-based Utility Reform Network (TURN) has filed a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission, alleging that Verizon is refusing to repair legacy copper-wire landline telephones. The public advocacy group says that Verizon is "neglecting the repair and maintenance of its copper network" and aims to forcibly migrate clients to IP-based services and fiber-optic connections.
A public hearing was held last week regarding the matter. A Verizon customer service employee, working in a copper-wire repair center claims to "have been trying to help a customer who has been out of service since January." The employee was told that the repair job would be too expensive, and the Voice Link wireless service or fiber connection -- both at significantly higher monthly cost -- was the customer's only option. The customer reportedly still has no service, despite the onus being on Verizon for repair.
"Verizon misleads or lies to basic phone service customers who request service repair about its attempts to migrate them to a different service. Verizon does not always inform customers that they are being migrated to FiOS," TURN's complaint to the California Public Utilities Commission stated. TURN adds that "Verizon has migrated senior citizens without their consent."
Verizon categorically denies the claims of forced, unwanted migration. Verizon spokesman Jarryd Gonzalez told Ars Technica that the company has "identified certain customers in fiber network areas who have had recurring repair issues over their copper-based service recently, or clusters of customers in areas where we have had recurring copper-based infrastructure issues. Moving them to our all-fiber network will improve the reliability of their service."
Gonzalez claims that "there is no charge for this work, and customers will pay the same rate for their service. Most customers recognize and appreciate the increased reliability of fiber and gladly agree to the move to fiber. Few customers across our service area have chosen to stay with copper and, once on fiber, few ask to return to copper." He added that "nobody is forced to take our services, nor are customers given new services without consent or knowledge." Gonzales didn't address add-on fees for fiber-based services or wireless services when talking about the monthly cost of the service, however.
At present, US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations require fiber-optic providers to continue to maintain copper-based connections. The FCC is in the midst of a test project which would kick off a debate considering if carriers will be explicitly allowed to forcibly migrate consumers to a new connection method if the old copper requires service.