Select copper lines get upgrade [Times Union, Albany, N.Y.]
(Times Union (Albany, NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 11--ALBANY -- In a move cheered by consumer advocacy groups across the state, Verizon said Tuesday it will replace copper phone lines damaged by Superstorm Sandy on Fire Island with a costly fiber-optic system.
The action is significant for other parts of the state because Verizon previously said it would substitute a wireless connection, known as Voice Link. However, Verizon still plans to replace its copper lines with a cheaper wireless system in rural areas upstate.
Consumer groups and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Verizon is using Fire Island as a test for scrapping its copper system statewide in favor of a cheaper wireless system that doesn't carry Internet service.
Tom Maguire, Verizon's senior vice president for national operations, said that based on meetings with Fire Island residents, the company believes there is a strong demand for a fiber-optic system on Fire Island that can deliver Internet and phone service. There are no other land line Internet options on the island to compete, and the eastern side has never had Internet service, Maguire said.
"This is all about the market," Maguire said. "A lot of people want more and more access to the Internet."
Verizon will continue to offer Voice Link as an optional service across the state to copper network customers who experience chronic repair issues. The state will continue to look at the practice, which could have a dramatic impact on the telecommunications market in the state, depending on the outcome.
"I am extremely pleased that Verizon has backed off its attempt to abandon land line telephone service on western Fire Island," Schneiderman said in a statement. "It's a victory for New Yorkers who were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and my office will continue to oppose Verizon's efforts to substitute land lines with lesser services."
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