Among the complaints about Voice Link, which uses wireless technology to simulate a landline network, was that it is not as dependable as a fixed-line system. Furthermore, it does not work with certain oft-used items like fax machines and credit card readers. For operators of businesses in the towns where Verizon tested Voice Link, this was a huge headache.
“It took me over three and a half hours to process all my credit cards on Saturday,” one Fire Island restaurant owner explained. “That’s pretty ridiculous.”
Another concern about Voice Link is that it doesn’t work with many alarm systems, which led some to claim that the lack of a copper or fiber network would put the public at risk.
Verizon had maintained that it needed an alternative to copper, as the demand for landline service has dropped dramatically over the last decade. The company didn’t want to sink huge amounts of money into rebuilding a network that would not be used for very long.
Fire Island was an even trickier problem, as it has no cable service, so consumers could not simply switch to cable-based phone from Time Warner Cable or some other provider. In the end, fiber seemed like the way to go, says Verizon.
“In today’s competitive marketplace it’s all about making sure you can take care of customers because if you don’t they can go someplace else,” said a Verizon VP in a statement. “Interestingly on Fire Island, there is no place else, so we listened to our customers… It was pretty apparent that we wanted to do something beyond Voice Link and the wireless network, so we think that fiber is the best course.”
Of course, the fiber cables means that Fire Island residents will finally get access to cable TV via FiOS, should they choose to do so. Service will hopefully be up and running by Memorial Day 2014. Residents who only want voice service will get it at the same price as they paid pre-Sandy. Those who actually like Voice Link can choose to keep the service.
“By installing fiber-optic cables on the island, Verizon will not only make the system as good as it was before, it will be making it better,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. “Fire Island residents will now have greater access to high speed Internet – a necessity in the modern age – and reliable voice service. Verizon deserves credit for listening to our concerns and changing course.”
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (not to be confused with short-lived Marvel superhero Schneider-Man, though the two have never been seen in the same place) had been a very vocal critic of Verizon’s efforts to replace landlines with Voice Link, so today’s announcement was met with much rejoicing in Albany.
“I am extremely pleased that Verizon has backed off its attempt to abandon landline telephone service on Western Fire Island,” said Schneiderman. “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 landlines with lesser services.”