Verizon has made it very clear that they have no interest in maintaining or upgrading their aging, legacy copper-wire networks. If they were replacing them all with fiber that would be one thing, but according to residents and officials in at least 16 New Jersey towns, that’s not what’s happening. Instead, municipalities are just seeing their entire communications infrastructure left to rot, to the point where you can’t even make a phone call on a rainy day.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the towns in a rural part of southern New Jersey have had it with their poor quality of service. The aging copper lines that service their community hum, crackle, or flat out go dead during inclement weather (which is not uncommon in the northeast or mid-Atlantic), and they want Verizon to take their complaints seriously and come fix it already.
It’s not that residents in this section of the state are unwilling to upgrade, they say; it’s that they aren’t being given a choice to. The old copper-wire infrastructure is the only choice they’ve got, since Verizon isn’t bringing fiber-optic services out their way. Meanwhile, there aren’t enough cell towers in the area to make wireless signals strong or reliable. And as for cable competition, Comcast serves, part, but not all, of the area.
A Hopewell Township resident said that his phone has a “hum” on sunny days, doesn’t work at all in the rain, and that Verizon won’t extend DSL service to him. Cable service stops a mile from his home. “This is 2016, and I can’t get the Internet,” he complained to the Inquirer.
The towns formally filed their complaint about deteriorating service with the state Board of Public Utilities in late November of last year. A Verizon spokesman told the Inquirer that the company has checked its customer service reports, and found that the service quality meets the required state standards. However, Verizon will be meeting with the mayors of the 16 towns over the next month to hear more about their concerns.
“In three to five years, there will be no dial tone, and what recourse will residents have?” an official from Hopewell Township said to the Inquirer. “The scariest thing is that this is New Jersey, which is the most densely populated state in the country, and if we can’t get 100 percent wired-out, good luck to other states.”
Granted, parts of New Jersey are less populated and more spread-out than others, and the section in question is indeed a rural area. But the entire state is only 70 miles wide and 170 miles long, and it’s flanked on both ends by major urban centers. Only three other states (Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut) are smaller. We aren’t exactly talking the great wide spreads of Montana or South Dakota, here.
It’s no secret that Verizon wants nothing to do with maintaining its aging copper-wire infrastructure anymore, nor is it unusual for Verizon not to care what its legacy-tech-using customers think — especially, for some reason, those in New Jersey.
Twice last year, the company made headlines for threatening customers with complete termination of service unless they consented to switch from copper wiring to modern fiber. Meanwhile when Verizon does roll out their fiber upgrades, as they have done in the northern part of New Jersey, they have been accused of skipping low-income areas.
The union that represents the maintenance workers who actually install and repair the older lines has accused Verizon of deliberately letting them go to rot. And when residents in southern New Jersey complained last year about the degradation of their network, a Verizon spokesman actually said that “people are going to look back and laugh” at those customers and their concerns.
16 S. Jersey towns to Verizon: Fix our copper phone lines [Philadelphia Inquirer / Philly.com]