Posted: 08 Jul 2015 12:00 AM PDT
John of Herndon, Virginia, says he had a Verizon copper phone line for 15 years, and he wanted to keep it. But when he reported an outage to Verizon, the company told him there was only one solution—switch to fiber.
As it turned out, John's phone service started working again. The outage had been caused by a glitch somewhere else in Verizon's network; the infrastructure at John's house was working fine, he told Ars. But Verizon still insisted that it could no longer offer him phone service over the copper line. If he refused a fiber installation, his phone line would be cut off and his account closed on July 3, Verizon told him.
"Recently, you contacted Verizon with a service issue. Our records show you declined transitioning service to our fiber network to resolve your issue. Without this much-needed transition, we will no longer be able to provide service to your home," Verizon Region President Chris Childs wrote to the man in a letter dated June 18. "If we do not hear from you before 07/03/2015, your Verizon home service account will be closed."
(John requested that we not publish his last name. We contacted Verizon about the incident, and the company did not dispute the details.)
Much of the US communications infrastructure is being shifted from copper to fiber to bring faster Internet speeds. Lots of customers welcome the change because they're stuck on slower DSL service, and many who can't get fiber wish they could.
But copper has an advantage fiber doesn't—it can keep working during long power outages because copper lines conduct electricity and draw the small amount of power phones need from a carrier's central office. Obviously, copper phone lines aren't immune to outages themselves. But if the copper connection from a home to the central office is maintained, the phone line can remain in service through multi-day or even multi-week electricity outages.
"My part of the neighborhood is pretty susceptible [to power outages] since the feeder power lines are above ground in a very wooded area," John told Ars, explaining why his phone service appears to be more reliable than his electricity. The copper phone lines are underground.
Verizon sells 8- and 24-hour backup batteries for fiber but nothing that can keep phones working for multiple days without a power source in the home.
John's trouble began last month when his phone line temporarily went down. He determined that the problem originated from outside his house by testing the Verizon Network Interface Device. He reported the outage and got a trouble ticket number:
But then, John received the letter informing him that his service would be disconnected.
"At this point, I have a working copper line, am a fully paid up customer in good standing (as well as a Verizon Wireless customer) for 15+ years, and they are threatening me with a disconnect in two weeks," John told Ars when he first contacted us on June 25.
On June 30, John provided an update: "A Verizon representative contacted me this morning (on my working copper line, to beat a dead horse) to let me know that I WOULD be disconnected on July 3 and to ask me to move to the fiber." The representative also "confirmed that no one did anything to make a repair during the initial outage," meaning that his phone service came back after "they fixed something somewhere else in the network."
Still, Verizon would not budge, and John decided to switch his phone service to Cox, which already provides him Internet access, he said. He also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. While Cox's cable-based VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] won't work during power outages, John was fed up with Verizon.
As it turned out, Verizon didn't disconnect his line on July 3. Just why isn't clear—maybe it had something to do with the BBB complaint or Verizon being contacted by a news organization. In any case, John had already called Cox to port his phone number over to the new service and the installation is scheduled for tomorrow. "I'm still canceling Verizon even if it's still working because this whole experience has been pretty unsavory," he said.
Cox is charging him $18 a month for the first 12 months, whereas he was paying $45 to Verizon.
Verizon denies the allegations and argues that phone customers will get more reliable service when they're switched to fiber. "Verizon's goal is to serve customers over the best facilities we have available and, for a growing number of our customers, those facilities are all-fiber," a company spokesperson told Ars.
Despite the power limitations, Verizon and similar companies are allowed to shift customers from copper to fiber as long as they continue providing traditional landline service over the fiber lines. Verizon's fiber network can handle either VoIP, which is lightly regulated, or the more heavily regulated circuit-switched phone traffic.
The Verizon statement continued:
Despite its statement that fiber is superior to copper, Verizon has slowed fiber deployments due to the cost, leaving millions with copper phone lines and DSL Internet as the only options. Switching to fiber lowers Verizon's maintenance costs, but the initial construction is expensive.
In Herndon, Verizon isn't switching all customers to fiber immediately—just those who complain about service problems. "We're migrating customers on our copper-based network with repair issues to fiber on a case-by-case basis," the company told Ars.The Federal Communications Commission is considering whether to let phone companies shut off the old Public Switched Telephone Network within about five years and move entirely to VoIP technology. Because traditional landline service is a regulated utility, the move could strip away consumer protections such as universal service guarantees.
Although the FCC hasn't decided whether to treat VoIP as a utility, it is trying to determine what rules phone providers should have to follow after the network change. In areas where providers don't want to install fiber, they might be allowed to provide VoIP over a wireless network only. A battery backup requirement is possible, but nothing's been settled yet.
For now, Verizon can move customers from copper to fiber after submitting public notices, but it doesn't need approval.
An FCC spokesperson told Ars:
Carriers that intend to discontinue, reduce, or impair service "must provide notice to customers and file an application pursuant to the Commission's discontinuance rules," the FCC told us. "The FCC would review the request, seek comment, and decide whether or not to allow the discontinuance."
The FCC is examining its network change disclosure requirements to determine whether they should be altered. But "ultimately, removal of copper currently requires no FCC approval as long as there is no change in service," the commission said.
|You are subscribed to email updates from "voipnow,business phone service" - Google News. |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States|