Asbury Park Press, N.J., David P. Willis column [Asbury Park Press, N.J.]
(Asbury Park Press (NJ) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 12--On New York's Fire Island, Verizon Communications executives listened to residents.
After an outcry, Verizon said it will build a fiber-optic network there to replace the copper one that was destroyed by superstorm Sandy. Previously, the company said it would offer only Verizon Voice Link, an alternative service that routes your home telephone service over Verizon Wireless' network.
So how about Mantoloking? Not so fast.
In the spring, Verizon said its copper network in Mantoloking was wrecked and will not be rebuilt or upgraded. For Mantoloking residents who want to remain Verizon customers, Voice Link is the only option, executives said.
Despite Verizon's Fire Island decision, nothing is changed in Mantoloking. The company will not build a fiber-optic network there, spokesman Lee J. Gierczynski told Press on Your Side.
A "unique set of circumstances" govern Verizon's decision on Fire Island, which is on the south shore of Long Island, Gierczynski said. Verizon is the sole provider of telecommunications services to the western area of Fire Island devastated by the storm, he said.
"Residents and businesses in places like Mantoloking have other providers to chose from for voice and Internet services," namely Comcast, Gierczynski said.
In a blog post on Monday, Tom Maguire, senior vice president of national operations support for Verizon, put its Fire Island decision pretty succinctly.
"The main driver of this was simply that our customers told us they were interested in a wider set of services beyond voice -- services that no other company was willing or able to provide," he wrote.
Expected to be ready by summer 2014, residents there will have the choice of Voice Link, traditional phone service over fiber-optic line or FiOS Internet and Digital Voice, but not FiOS TV.
It doesn't sit well with Mantoloking resident Peter Flihan, an unhappy Verizon Voice Link customer.
"Fire Island is louder than Mantoloking," Flihan said. "They don't care whether they lose business in Mantoloking."
Verizon Voice Link has come under fire from customers, like Flihan, who are unhappy that it does not work with fax machines, security systems or medical monitoring devices. Flihan also has complained about the call quality too, citing static on the line.
Verizon says it's not economical to build a replacement for the copper network.
Verizon has asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to replace traditional telephone service with Voice Link, already rolled out in Mantoloking. Besides Mantoloking, it also affects a handful of customers in Brick and Bay Head. The application is pending.
Out of about 540 potential customers for Voice Link, about 100 are signed up, Gierczynski said. While calls are routed over the Verizon Wireless network, the service uses a home's wires and jacks. The company is working on upgrades that will include one powered by AA batteries and another compatible with data services.
It is meant for a "specific set of customers," an executive wrote recently. Voice Link is an "excellent solution for restoring voice service to customers," Paul Sullivan, region president for Verizon New Jersey, recently wrote in the Asbury Park Press.
Verizon's decision to stay the course in Mantoloking has caused an outcry from the telecommunication company's critics.
New Jersey Rate Counsel Stefanie A. Brand called it "troubling."
"I am not sure why New Jersey is not getting the same level of service as New York from Verizon," Brand said. Cable companies such as Comcast, which is the provider in Mantoloking, don't offer regular telephone service the way Verizon did, she said.
"It's not enough to simply say there is cable in Mantoloking; therefore we don't need to meet our obligation," Brand said. "Why are they not willing to do it for similarly situated customers in New Jersey?"
A spokesman for AARP New Jersey, the advocacy group, echoed the concerns about Verizon Voice Link. The issues on Fire Island and in Mantoloking are the same, he said. "It feels like New Jersey is getting second-class service," spokesman Jeff Abramo said.
The Jersey Shore should get the same consideration from Verizon as it gave Fire Island, he said. "It's not fair that they're victimized twice."
Do you have a consumer problem that needs solving? Contact business writer David P. Willis, and he will try to help. Reach him at 732-643-4042, facebook.com/dpwillis732,
(c)2013 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)
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