Verizon has slowly been expanding the number of Sandy victims they're informing will never see their DSL lines repaired. Fire Island, New York residents who lost service during Sandy haven't had broadband service since last October, and only recently were told that these lines simply won't be repaired
. Now Jersey local telcodad
sends us a report in the Asbury Park Press
stating that Mantoloking, New Jersey residents are also being told (after a six month wait) that they'll only be able to get wireless service going forward.
Instead of power-outage-resilient copper voice and DSL lines, users are pushed toward Verizon's Voice Link, which offers voice service over Verizon's wireless network -- but no data connectivity of any kind. Park Press
reporter David Willis thinks this is all just nifty and gushes over the service, failing to mention a single drawback to this transition. Stop the Cap
is fortunately a bit more skeptical, pointing out that the service has more quirks than a hyperactive teenager and lacks simple features like callerID. Union workers (who obviously lose their jobs as Verizon shifts to wireless) don't much like it, but neither do many users:
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 824 points out Voice Link was not intended to serve just anybody. It will deliver a voice-only service unsuitable for faxing, DSL, or data communications of any kind...(one local user) says the Caller ID displays the caller’s number, but not name – a feature he relied on heavily. He found about 30 percent of test calls either took more than 10 seconds to start ringing, or never rang at all. "Sometimes the calls would time out and other times you would just sit and listen in silence until the phone at the other end finally started ringing,” Smith said.
Verizon argues it only makes sense to terminate landlines in disaster prone areas where wireless service is more resilient. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who still rely on these networks, most of whom like having a voice line that works during a power outage. There's also the fact that many of these users will pay significantly more for service (Voice Link, plus an additional capped wireless account for voice and data) than they ever did with DSL. However much the industry wishes it to be so, capped wireless is no substitute for an uncapped fixed line. It is, however, far more profitable.
While Verizon is using Sandy for cover on the east coast, this abandonment of copper lines in favor for wireless is a national issue for AT&T and Verizon, who are both going state by state
looking to gut the regulations that require they continue to provide services over copper lines at reasonable rates. In some cases, like in Kansas and Kentucky, AT&T lobbyists are outright lying to locals
, claiming they'll see more
fixed line broadband service expansion if they gut rules allowing them to back out of the fixed-line broadband business. Amazingly, that strategy is working.
If Verizon wishes to replace the copper wiring with fiber it is strictly their business decision.
-FCC, when told Verizon hadn't fixed a DSL line in six months
Despite being the biggest shift in telecom in twenty years, this is considered such a boring story by the mainstream tech press that most aren't covering it. That has helped provide both AT&T and Verizon with cover for a plan that involves either hanging up on tens of millions of users, or driving them to cable competitors
in exchange for cozy wireless bundling partnerships.
Meanwhile the FCC, swayed into thinking this is simply a "modernization effort" toward an all IP age, is oblivious or apathetic to the broader consumer ramifications of the move. This was the response one local received from the FCC when they complained that Verizon refused to repair their DSL line for six months, only to eventually replace it with a product that does half as much:
If Verizon wishes to replace the copper wiring with fiber it is strictly their business desicion (sic). – Representative Number : TSR54
Note how the FCC representative, much like its Commissioners, doesn't even actually understand what's going on, and thinks that the user is complaining about being upgraded to FiOS. After freezing FiOS expansion to focus on wireless, Verizon simply has no interest in keeping these landline networks operational, so they're gutting the regulations
that currently ensure the elderly and rural consumers continue receiving service.
While regulation modernization is important, what to do with our copper landline and DSL networks requires an intelligent conversation and close attention by regulators, but what we're seeing instead is carriers with bulldozers and napping regulators. Surely that's going to improve now that a former wireless and cable industry lobbyist
will be running the FCC?