CWA petitions PA Public Utility Commission to investigate, fine Verizon for dangerous conditions

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission calling on the PUC to open an investigation into unsafe conditions at Verizon locations throughout the state.

 

CWA, in the course of representing its almost 5,000 Verizon workers throughout Pennsylvania, examined Verizon’s equipment in areas of the state where Verizon has not built its new fiber network (or FiOS) and only offers service through traditional copper wiring. The investigation documented hundreds of dangerous locations that include poles designated for removal that are not stable (and in some cases broken), portions of old poles suspended in the air, terminals and other equipment not attached to poles, cables hanging dangerously low due to broken lashings that have not been replaced, plastic coverings and splice boxes placed over damaged cable and other equipment that pose a risk of insect and animal infestation and that are not properly grounded, damaged cabinets that pose a risk of insect and animal infestation, and similar conditions that pose a risk to CWA members and the public.

 

"Everyday, CWA members put themselves at risk climbing poles that can fall at any minute or fixing equipment that has become a home for rats and other dangerous infestations due to Verizon's unwillingness to maintain its, equipment," said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. "Despite a billion dollars in profits every month, Verizon refuses to spend the money necessary to keep the public and its employees safe. Customers are paying every month for telephone service that's reliable. They deserve better than this."

 

"AARP supports the call for an investigation of Verizon’s operations in Pennsylvania. We know that telephone service is a basic necessity, allowing older people to maintain social contact, preserve health and safety, and call for assistance in an emergency,” said Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP Pennsylvania State Director. “Many consumers rely on their landline service during extreme weather or other emergencies.  When the power goes out, they need to be able to communicate. AARP also encourages consumers to take advantage of advanced technologies. The Commission should use its investigation to ensure that Pennsylvania consumers enjoy the finest, affordable, universal, reliable and high quality telecommunications system in the nation."

 

In its investigation so far, the union documented more than 200 examples in 13 counties where Verizon is failing to provide safe facilities by refusing to 1) replace damaged, bent, and broken poles; 2) repair or replace damaged cross-connect boxes and remote terminals; 3) repair or replace damaged cable; and 4) properly control falling trees and vegetation near its facilities.  The union is calling on the PUC to use its authority to conduct a public, on-the-record investigation into whether Verizon is meeting its statutory obligation to provide “adequate, efficient, safe, and reasonable service and facilities.”

 

Since 2012, the PUC has received more than 6,000 complaints of inadequate service.  Because the PUC often transfers customers to Verizon before taking a complaint, the real number of complaints is even higher.  Many of these complaints document multiple days without service over several months, and have led to missed medical calls and an inability to call 911 in emergencies.

 

The union says that the dangerous conditions are due to Verizon’s systemic underinvestment in its traditional landline network.   In July, Verizon admitted in a letter to the FCC that it had only spent $200 million over the last seven years to maintain its copper landline network in Pennsylvania, ten other states and the District of Columbia.  CWA also asked the PUC to order Verizon to take immediate actions to correct these dangerous conditions throughout the Commonwealth, and to fine Verizon for what appear to be willful failures to safely maintain its equipment.  According to CWA's petition, the PUC has the authority to fine Verizon up to $1,000 per day for each safety violation.

 

CWA Petition to the PA PUC (CWA, Oct. 22, 2015)