NJ Rate Counsel takes action against Verizon

New Jersey’s Division of the Rate Counsel has filed two actions against Verizon. The first is a petition to the NJ Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) seeking an investigation into a threatening letter Verizon sent its customers. The second is an appeal alleging that the NJBPU improperly agreed to end state regulation of Verizon’s pricing and service.

On May 15, Verizon sent one of its New Jersey customers a letter threatening to discontinue service if that customer refused to switch from her copper network to a fiber-optic network within 45 days. According to a local report, the letter read in part that:

…services will be suspended on or after 45 days from the date of this letter, if you do not allow Verizon reasonable access to your premises … to move your service to our fiber-optic network… Once your service is suspended, you will only be able to call 9-1-1 and our customer service number … 14 days after being suspended, Verizon service at your address will be disconnected.

Director of Rate Counsel Stefanie Brand argues the letter signals a violation of state statutes and “Verizon’s obligation to be the provider of last resort.”

“Maybe fiber is the future,” Brand said, “but at least it has to be done in an orderly manner. You can’t just send somebody a letter and say, ‘Do this now, or we’re gonna cut you off.'”

In a separate filing, Rate Counsel charged the NJBPU with “improperly [agreeing] last month to lift price controls over landline service controlled by Verizon New Jersey and possibly pull back from overseeing the quality of the company’s copper-wired network.”

The NJBPU’s agreement to further deregulate Verizon in New Jersey comes as the company elsewhere breaks a promise to deliver service and neglects proper maintenance, repair, and service to its copper customers.

“We are trying to protect the ability of everyone in the state to have telephone service at a reasonable price,” said Brand about NJBPU’s agreement. “We want to make sure the board continues what is really very important oversight to protect customers and ensure that they have the services they need.”

Verizon Threatens to End Service If Customers Don’t Switch to Fiber-Optic Network (NJTVNews, June 29, 2015)

N.J. Consumer advocate appeals Verizon phone deal (NorthJersey.com, June 29, 2015)

Verizon breaks promise to deliver FiOS to NYC (Speed Matters, June 19, 2015)

CWA: Verizon neglects copper lines (Speed Matters, June 11, 2015)

CWA urges FCC to address Verizon abuses (Speed Matters, June 28, 2015)