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Fire Island resident forum protests Verizon Voice Link

22 Aug, 2013

On August 13, Fire Island, New York residents attended a forum concerned with Verizon’s looming decision to permanently sever landline service from the island community.

As reported in Speed Matters, Verizon is planning to substitute wireless-based Voice Link service to several islands on the New Jersey shore, as well as to Fire Island. So far, there have been objections from residents, businesses and the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC).

The Fire Island meeting was unusually heavily attended. According to one blog, 160 people attended the meeting at Ocean Beach Community House. And, blogger Susan Lerner noted:

“Verizon employees were on the hot seat from the get-go. The knowledgeable crowd was armed with facts and figures, and their contact text messages and emails with Verizon customer service, and photos, to make their case in no uncertain terms that the Voice Link they were now offered was simply not an adequate substitute for the landline and DSL service they had before the storm.”

Lerner also posted a nine-minute YouTube video of the meeting.

Pete Sikora of the Communications Workers of America reported on the objections stemming from Verizon’s decision to abandon copper and fiber wireline service. Sikora recounted that residents, small business owners, public safety and other local officials told the following litany of problems they now faced:

“... lack of reliable, affordable broadband service; business’ lack of affordable and reliable substitute broadband and credit card processing service; concerns about public safety in a blackout, especially an inability to contact 911 in an emergency; inability to use medical monitoring services, including Life Alert-style devices and a pacemaker update service; inferior, unreliable, inconsistent and often static-filled voice telephony service.”

And, according to CWA residents told of “the failure of Verizon to communicate meaningful information to the public, especially about the switchover to Voice Link and inconsistent, contradictory information from Verizon representatives.”

On August 19, CWA filed an ex parte notice with the Federal Communications Commission relating the difficulties posed by Voice Link service, and called for much more thorough and open testing of Voice Link and an opportunity for affected residents to provide their input.

Regardless of the FCC’s actions, the state of New York appears determined not to let Verizon to precipitously push through its plan. According to CWA:

“The NY PSC will hold a public hearing on Fire Island on August 24, has extended the public comment deadline through Sept. 13, and has required Verizon to submit a report on Voice Link due Nov. 1. According to the New York Attorney General’s comments to the FCC, it is likely that the NY PSC investigation will not conclude before the end of 2013, at the earliest.”

Verizon taking heat on Fire Island (Susan Lerner, Common Blog, Aug. 21, 2013)

Town Hall Meeting on the Future of Telecommunications (Common Cause, YouTube, Aug, 2013)

CWA letter, CWA Ex Parte WC Docket 13-150 (FCC, Aug. 19, 2013)


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