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Pennsylvania: You Are Next for Verizon Landline Migrations to Wireless; FCC Says It is Fine

Verizon sails away from their rural landline network.

Verizon casts off its rural landline network for some customers.

Verizon landline customers reporting problems with their service in Pennsylvania may be soon targeted for Verizon’s wireless landline replacement — Voice Link — according to two sources sharing an internal memo with Broadband Reports.

The May 7 memo states that a significant number “selected customers” will be migrated off Verizon’s copper landline network to the Voice Link wireless service. One of the sources recognized the move as an end run around regulators:

“It has become painfully obvious to both our employees and customers that Verizon wishes to divest themselves of all regulated services,” says the source. “Abandoning our regulated wire line customers in favor of fixed point LTE may seem like a clever move but it violates “The Negroponte Principle” and will ultimately bump-up against the immutable laws of spectrum conservation physics.”

“It’s a shame that corporations like Verizon can build a FTTCS based wireless empire with regulatory subsidies provided by their wireline customers and then force them onto the unregulated wireless side,” argues the insider. “Questions of ethics and legality abound and perhaps regulatory over-sight is warranted here.”

Verizon may not get too much oversight from Pennsylvania regulators hoodwinked by the telecom company in the past.

Voice Link is a voice-only wireless home phone replacement that lacks certain calling features, Caller ID with Name for one, and requires the homeowner to provide power (and backup batteries in the event of a power failure). Customers are also dependent on quality reception from the nearest Verizon Wireless cell tower and that it remains in service during severe weather events or prolonged power outages.

Some of the customers likely targeted are still waiting for DSL broadband service from Verizon. If those customers are identified as Voice Link prospects, they will be waiting for broadband forever because Voice Link does not support data services and Verizon cannot supply DSL over a scrapped landline network.

response

Stop the Cap! has also learned today that the Federal Communications Commission has no problem with Verizon’s unilateral action to switch landline customers to wireless.

A FCC representative told our reader Anne, who is currently fighting Verizon over its plans to abandon landline service on the New Jersey Barrier Island, that they consider Voice Link a functionally equivalent landline service. In a response that could have come directly from Verizon customer service, the FCC helpfully describes the new service Anne already understands and does not want:

Q. What if Verizon is NOT replacing copper with fiber, but is going strictly to wireless?  There will be no landlines whatsoever.  Is that acceptable?

A. “Yes that is acceptable and it is called Verizon Voice Link.  It is a wireless device that plugs into the telephone lines in your home, allowing customers the ability to use their home telephone to make and receive calls.” — FCC Representative Number : TSR54

“This second FCC response, like the first one, ignores the issue, is unprofessional and is insulting,” says Anne. “Obviously, I already know what Voice Link is.”

Currently there are 10 comments on this Article:

  1. Tim says:

    Quote from Verizon’s Shammo this morning:

    Fran Shammo – Verizon Communications Inc. – EVP, CFO
    Okay. All right. So thanks for the question. So the question, if everybody didn’t hear it was — with DSH going after Sprint, why didn’t we choose
    that rather than looking at a cable partnership?
    So there’s a couple things here. If you recall, way back I guess about two years ago we did a trial with DIRECTV in Erie, Pennsylvania, where we did
    broadband on the side of a house and offered a triple-play, if you will, which consisted of broadband, voice, and linear TV provided by DIRECTV.
    What we found was people were adoptive to the broadband; but because of the consumption of broadband through that LTE network, it was
    really detrimental to the spectrum and to the network performance. Because they used so much data, it soaked up so much of the spectrum.
    So what we felt was LTE for broadband works in certain rural areas, but you can’t compete LTE broadband in those dense populated areas because
    you can’t — first of all, you can’t match the speed with a 50-megabit or a 100-megabit delivery between cable and FiOS and U-verse. And you literally
    don’t have enough spectrum to be able to use that much consumption.
    So what we felt was by partnering with the cable companies, and delivering our LTE network with voice and data, and having that hardwired
    connection into the home was a better financial way to do it than trying to go LTE broadband. Because we just didn’t see where the spectrum
    could hold up to the volume that would be demanded.

    • Scott says:

      That quote is great, which shows the double-talk by Verizon.

      They along with AT&T keep saying that wireless will replace voice and data in non-metro areas claiming it’s the perfect (yet incredibly expensive) solution.

      As we know here they admit that it’s a waste of spectrum and can’t possible keep up with or replace wired data services.

      • Tim says:

        The fact that Erie, PA was chosen as an example is quite intriguing because Erie unlike Buffalo or Pittsburgh is a totally Fios-less market. Of course VZ is under build out obligations in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh which makes it tough at the PA State level to get the political willpower to do anything. So in some sense VZ is acknowledging fixed LTE is really only a substitute for FIOS or cable in unique circumstances such as Fire Island and some more remote parts of the Adirondacks or Central PA.

  2. James Cieloha says:

    My comment about Verizon forcing it’s rural customers to only have Voice Link wireless service for their phone and internet needs can be found at:

    http://stopthecap.com/2013/05/14/verizon-to-rural-america-voice-link-is-coming-soon-buy-a-satellite-dish-if-you-want-data/

    I honestly comment for the elderly for phone, the farmers for phone and internet, and the school age students (preschool to high school and college) to do school reports that require better internet service and also to play educational games such as Sesame Street games being found online for the small children to play online.

  3. Jim Donahue says:

    Voicelink should be significantly less expensive than the Freedom products which are around $65-70 with taxes and fees.

    The loss here is for customers with no real broadband options. Those customers are where the rural subsidies should be focused.

    The whole country should be wired with fiber.

  4. Andrew Madigan says:

    We’re talking about an old copper network built by a government-subsidized monopoly in order to meet the requirements of an Act of Congress. AT&T raised prices to pay for it. If we had the same system today, the rural U.S. might very well get a network that would last the next 70 years or more, at an incredibly high price.

    The network that’s there is expensive to maintain and low in value. Few people have fax machines today, even fewer will have them in 10 years. At the speeds that DSL can reach on old lines, most of the internet will be essentially useless by that time as well (if it isn’t already). The connection speed won’t even be fast enough to keep computers up to date.

    If we’re going to maintain these networks, someone will have to pay for them. If Verizon pays for it, then their profitable products will be more expensive than the competition. If bidding on spectrum is reformed, competitors to Verizon Wireless will be able to offer better prices with very little loss in coverage (if any). Verizon is already in the process of separating it’s old, depreciating assets from the technologically updated and profitable ones. The Universal Service Fund is being redirected to broadband access, but I doubt that would pay for much. Google estimated it would cost $11 billion over 5 years for their fiber network to reach 15% of homes. That’s for urban, high-density areas. Rural areas would cost much, much more. The USF is $4.5 billion per year and won’t be fully redirected until 2018.

    If a fiber network is to be built in rural areas, it will probably have to be done with government money. I wonder if rural PA would vote for a tax increase to build a national fiber network…

    I don’t want to think what “Six Strikes” would look like if there was just a single, national ISP. There was never a Universal Service requirement for internet access, I bet Caller ID was never required either. I wonder if private lines are even required, as party lines were the norm in some parts of the U.S. for decades. Yes, it has to be reliable, but theoretically it should be easier to keep a few towers running than a much large landline network. I am surprised that the FCC is OK with Verizon requiring the customer to provide the batteries, as I would think that the VoiceLink device would act as the demarcation point, and that it since it is carrier-provided equipment, maintenance would be up to Verizon.

    • Jim Donahue says:

      In the long term fiber is less expensive than the old copper network.

      The problem is that it doesn’t provide enough of a margin versus wireless which right now is a cash bonanza.

    • Scott says:

      Our internet and the majority of those lines were built with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, the majority of it being ripped off via creative accounting just like many other government programs that ended up enriching these corporations.

      None of the wireless technologies are a replacement for wired copper or fiber. WiMax, Satellite, 3rd or 4th Gen Cellular can’t do hi-speed broadband to support future needs, they can’t majority of alarm systems, faxes, medical devices, they’re unreliable, they have no service quality guarantees, they have no regulations to protect consumers, they’re all typical 2-5x more expensive than wired service with significantly less speed.

      Hi-speed broadband for all of America is needed as a utility, and as we’ve seen said before on this site it should be just as big a project as the Rural Electrification Act.

      We also need to get some moderate form of regulation back in the industry to provide a chance for competition again, to protect consumers, and ensure eldery people have reliable communications, that in times of need like disasters we aren’t taking a step back in service, etc.

      There’s just too much of a push by the big companies to increase profits, kill or block any potential competition, and remove any government oversight and consumer protect and its been costing us way too much.

  5. MarkVS says:

    What about WISPS?

    that could be an option other than satellite for rural areas, NO?

  6. txpatriot says:

    I am not familiar with Pennsylvania requirements, but there is nothing in the Communications Act that requires that local service be provided over copper. If that were the case, FTTH would be illegal. Fixed wireless has long been used to provide local service where copper wire was not cost-effective.

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