Telecom Union Says Verizon Is Neglecting Landlines

Though more than 40% of U.S. homes are now cellphone-only, many millions of Americans still have landline service. But a union representing 35,000 Verizon employees says the company is refusing to repair broken copper-line networks.

In an effort to prove its point, the Communications Workers of America has filed multiple Freedom Of Information Act requests with utility regulators from six states (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York) and Washington, D.C., claiming that the requested data on the repair, maintenance, and installation of Verizon landline services will show that the telecom giant has failed to meet its obligations for network upkeep.

“As a public utility in these states, Verizon has a duty to maintain services for all customers,” said Dennis Trainor, CWA Vice President, in a statement. “But we’ve seen how the company abandons users, particularly on legacy networks, and customers across the country have noticed their service quality is plummeting.”

The union, which acknowledges that more repairs means more work for its members, gives the example of New York state’s 2005 decision to eliminate automatic fines for lapses in Verizon’s telephone service quality. The hope had been that increased competition from new entrants into the phone service market would keep landlines working.

However, the CWA contends that by 2010, Verizon was only clearing 1.2% of service complaints within 24 hours. That’s only a fraction of the 80% clearance standard set by the state. CWA accuses the state of then re-jigging its stats to eliminate 92% of customers from Verizon’s service quality measurements.

Verizon says the union claims that the company is trying to abandon its copper network are “pure nonsense” and that the CWA is trying to exert pressure in advance of upcoming contract negotiations with Verizon.

But this isn’t the first time the company has been accused of pushing customers away from traditional copper lines.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Verizon tried to replace some landlines in Long Island with its Voice Link service, leaving residents and businesses without all of the functionality they had beforehand. Ultimately, the company chose to replace the drowned copper lines with FiOS fiber service.

Speaking of which, Verizon was accused last year of deliberately neglecting landline service in California as a way to push customers to switch to FiOS. Verizon has agreed to sell off its landline service in the state to other providers.

In early 2014, the FCC gave the go-ahead for telecom providers to test Internet-based VoIP phone service as a full replacement for traditional landlines. Tests are currently underway in markets around the country.

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