Verizon’s Post-Superstorm Sandy Plans Cause Last-Mile Access Worries

COMPTEL has filed comments on applications filed by Verizon with the FCC to discontinue service to some areas destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.

In its July 27th filing, COMPTEL asked the FCC to remove Verizon’s request to discontinue domestic telecom services on Fire Island, N.Y., and Mantoloking, N.J., from their streamlined approval procedures.

If not removed from the streamlined process, the applications could be automatically granted on the 60th day following the release of Public Notices.

Verizon applied to discontinue offering certain copper-based special access services that it described as “incompatible with fiber” in lower Manhattan and portions of New Jersey where copper facilities were reportedly destroyed by Superstorm Sandy and replaced with fiber. In addition, the carrier wants to discontinue landline service on the western end of Fire Island and offer fixed wireless service in its place.

In its filing, COMPTEL pointed out that at a June 12, 2012, investor’s conference, Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam had announced plans to move customers in sparsely populated areas of New York and New Jersey to wireless service, stating, “We have got some work to do in New York and New Jersey there that are frankly pretty backward compared to the rest of these states, so we have some work to do there. But the vision that I have is we are going into the copper plant areas and every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper. We are going to just take it out of service and we are going to move those services onto FiOS. We have got parallel networks in way too many places now, so that is a pot of gold in my view.”

The COMPTEL filing stated it appeared that Verizon was taking advantage of the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy to take action on these plans and that the FCC must determine if implementing this predetermined course of action would be in the public’s best interest.

The filing said, “Verizons applications raise issues of critical importance regarding the continuing availability to competitors of last mile access to customers when copper facilities are abandoned and replaced with fiber after a natural disaster and the continuing availability of reliable telephone service to end users when landline networks are abandoned and replaced with fixed wireless services after a natural disaster. The Commission must establish some parameters around the post-disaster network change process that will ensure that both competitive providers and end users that are impacted by proposed network changes are able to obtain alternative products/services that are of comparable quality and are comparably priced to the services they received prior to the disaster.”

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