Testimony and Photographs Expose Verizon’s Failure to Repair Copper Network and Company’s Policy of Forcing Customers to Use VoiceLink, Putting Those Who May Need Future Medical Monitoring at Risk.
Read the testimonies below:
Washington, D.C. -- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today served testimony with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission as part of the union’s petition for a public investigation into the safety and reasonableness of service provided by Verizon Communications to Pennsylvania customers.
CWA presented the testimony of Jim Gardler, president of CWA Local 13000 and representing 4,400 Verizon workers in the state, and that of Susan Baldwin, a nationally recognized expert on telecommunications service quality.
In the course of representing its members throughout Pennsylvania, CWA has been examining Verizon’s equipment for more than a year, focusing on areas where Verizon has not built its new fiber network (or FiOS) and only offers service through traditional copper wiring.
Last year, CWA documented more than 200 examples in 13 counties where Verizon is failing to provide safe facilities by refusing to 1) replace damaged, bent, and broken poles; 2) repair or replace damaged cross-connect boxes and remote terminals; 3) repair or replace damaged cable; and 4) properly control falling trees and vegetation near its facilities.
Today’s filing documents the further deterioration of Verizon’s copper network and the impact on service and safety for customers, workers and the public. Included are photographs taken between January 2016 and September 2016 that illustrate the continuing neglect of the physical plant. The filing includes time series photographs that illustrate the safety and service problems go back many years.
Photographs and other information are available below:
The filing documents the following types of problems: poles that are deteriorating, including unsafe poles that remain in service; lines sagging dangerously below minimum clearance levels; cables that are not properly repaired and replaced; ungrounded, exposed wires used as a work-around because Verizon will not spend the money to replace damaged cables; damaged cabinets and splice boxes that are not repaired or replaced, allowing animals and insects to nest inside; air pressure systems that are not tested and maintained, resulting in customer outages and the hazardous exposure of lead cable to the environment; batteries in remote terminals, controlled environment vaults, and high-capacity optical cable installations that are corroding and that are not being tested and replaced, resulting in preventable telephone outages during power outages.
For customers, the lack of proper maintenance means increasing incidents of no service at all. But workers are told “to install VoiceLink for voice-only customers and allow the copper network to deteriorate even further,” Gardler testified.
Forcing customers onto VoiceLink is a tremendous disservice to those customers. VoiceLink cannot be used to provide any type of data services and restricts consumers who are planning or who may need to use in the future a medical device that requires telephone monitoring, like a pacemaker; dedicated Internet access like DSL or dial-up Internet access; security alarms, and other electronic equipment.
“Field technicians are required to have VoiceLink units on their trucks and to refuse to repair copper plant serving voice-only customers….Technicians are being told that if they actually try to repair copper plant instead of using VoiceLink they will be subject to disciplinary action by Verizon,” he said.
VoiceLink assumes that the needs of the customer – or the customer’s premises – will not change. “If three months from now, a customer with VoiceLink requires a pacemaker, Verizon’s service won’t be able to support that needed medical equipment, Gardler said, adding, “It’s a reduction in the quality of service and the types of services the network is able to support.”
CWA also presented the testimony of Susan Baldwin, an expert on service quality issues, who said that, “the persistence of high trouble report rates, high repeat trouble report rates and extraordinarily slow repair times in many Pennsylvania communities suggests that Verizon is not investing sufficient resources in the maintenance and repair of its network.”
Baldwin’s review of the data found that “Verizon’s apparent neglect of its copper network jeopardizes the safety and adequacy of the public switched telecommunications network, and underscores the importance of regulatory oversight and remedies.”
These are among the remedies that CWA is calling on the PUC to put in place:
- Require Verizon to hire additional field technicians.
- Prohibit Verizon from using VoiceLink as a permanent solution.
- Require Verizon to substantially increase its budget for maintenance and repair of copper facilities in non-FiOS areas.
- Direct Verizon to expand its FiOS service into current unserved areas.
- Undertake a thorough audit of Verizon’s maintenance and repair practices.
- Require Verizon to respond to all reports of downed or damaged utility poles as soon as possible, but within eight hours (except during a severe weather emergency.)
- Order Verizon to provide a complete inventory of double and faulty poles along with a plan to eliminate them.
- Order Verizon to test and replace as necessary all batteries used for network backup power.
- Order Verizon to maintain, repair and replace, as needed, the air pressure system vital to the integrity of cable, especially lead cable.