PA Public Utility Commission announces hearings into Verizon's systemic neglect

 

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) commended the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission today for its decision to hold hearings into the unsafe conditions at Verizon locations throughout the state, following a CWA petition that detailed hundreds of dangerous locations across 13 counties. The PUC announced last week that the case has been assigned to Administrative Law Judge Joel Cheskis who will preside over hearings examining Verizon's maintenance practices and quality of service.

 

CWA, which represents nearly 5,000 Verizon workers in the state, has examined Verizon’s equipment in areas of the state where the company has refused to build its new fiber network and only offers service through traditional copper wiring, which is often left in a state of virtual abandonment. At multiple locations across the state, CWA documented severe instances of poles designated for removal that were broken or unstable; portions of old poles suspended in the air; terminals and other equipment not attached to poles; cables hanging perilously close to the ground; plastic coverings and splice boxes placed over damaged cable and other equipment that pose a risk of insect and animal infestation, and other similar unsafe, service-impacting conditions.

 

“Pennsylvania families are paying top dollar every month for reliable telephone service and safe neighborhoods and streets. They deserve better than Verizon’s reckless disregard for public safety and service,” said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. “CWA members across the state are climbing poles and fixing equipment every day to make sure that communities get the service they deserve and the service they pay for. Despite its billions of dollars in profits, Verizon knowingly is leaving its infrastructure in a state of disrepair, risking the safety of telephone workers and Pennsylvania residents.”

 

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 likely 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. 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.

 

Pa. to examine state of Verizon copper lines (Philly.com, Feb. 23, 2016)

 

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

 

CWA petitions PA Public Utility Commission to investigate, fine Verizon for dangerous conditions (Speed Matters, Oct. 22, 2015)