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Guest Editorial: Verizon Remains Committed to Fire Island With Voice Link

Tom Maguire June 19, 2013 Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, Verizon, Video, Wireless Broadband 17 Comments
Tom Maguire

Tom Maguire

Recently, Stop the Cap! published stories about Verizon’s decision to discontinue traditional wired landline service for approximately 500 customers on Fire Island and offer them a wireless alternative called Voice Link. This is an important change for Verizon and our customers, and we wanted to clarify several points about the service and how Verizon is deploying it.

In places like Fire Island, New York and some communities along the Jersey Shore, such as Mantoloking and Seaside Heights, Verizon evaluated the extent of the damage to its facilities – which in many cases were literally washed away by Super Storm Sandy – and conducted extensive research before deciding the best course of action to take in terms of restoration.

Fire Island is a popular beach community with only a few hundred year-round residents, but the population swells each summer. Verizon’s equipment on the eastern side of the island was not too heavily impacted, so repairs were made and services restored.

On the western side of the Island, however, a large percentage of Verizon’s copper facilities were damaged beyond repair.

We studied the voice traffic on and off the island and where it was originating from on both Verizon’s wireline and wireless networks.  The company discovered that 80 percent of the voice traffic was already wireless.  If other wireless providers were factored in, it is likely that the percentage is closer to 90 percent.  This made it clear that people had already made the decision as to what technology works best. They had abandoned copper long before Sandy.

Where Sandy did the most damage on Fire Island

Where Sandy did the most damage on Fire Island.

Another part of Verizon’s analysis looked at the number of permanent residents on Fire Island, which number about 500, and the costs that Verizon would incur to install and connect new landline facilities there.  It would range from $4.8 million to more than $6 million. A multimillion dollar investment with no guarantee that residents of the island will even subscribe to our services makes no economic sense. In fact, that’s probably why Verizon is the sole provider on the island. None of the companies we compete with in other parts of New York offer services on the island.

Verizon-logoVerizon’s commitment is to provide our customers with voice service, and Voice Link is another way that Verizon is using technology to reliably deliver on that commitment for customers. And Voice Link does so by using wireless technology that has been proven effective over the last 20 plus years.

Verizon will maintain the copper network where it makes customer service and business sense to do so.  Please keep in mind that the vast majority of our copper customers have no issues at all with their service; we are only considering the universe of customers where the copper network is not supporting their requirements.  Again, the exception is the storm-impacted areas in the western portion of Fire Island and a few New Jersey Barrier communities where copper facilities were damaged beyond repair.  In these locations Voice Link will be the single voice option available to customers. Verizon will offer these customers the opportunity to use our state-of-the-art, tried and tested wireless network at the same rate (or better) that they pay today.

Here is how Verizon Voice Link works with your existing home phones.

Here is how Verizon Voice Link works with existing home phones.

Some additional points for clarification:

  • The service does offer a variety of popular calling features including Call Waiting and Caller ID with Name.  Some articles mistakenly reported to the contrary;
  • Another article cited a Communications Daily piece that incorrectly reported 40,000 people participated in a blind test of Voice Link. Actually, that test group consisted of 20 people;
  • Current Voice Link models include a rechargeable battery that offers 36 hours of standby and two hours of voice service. Future devices will work with standard AA batteries, giving customers an easy alternative for replacing batteries and maintaining communications in an extended power outage;
  • Although the device is not presently data capable, the team is working to change that. Nevertheless we have always said that it was not Verizon’s original intent to use Voice Link for customers with DSL. If a customer had an issue with their copper and they had DSL, we would repair the copper.  Unfortunately Sandy changed these plans for a handful of customers on Fire Island and the New Jersey Barrier where the copper is beyond repair.

What’s the Deal With Copper?

In areas where Verizon’s fiber and copper network ran side-by-side, Verizon began to ask certain copper customers with a history of trouble to move their service to fiber. In some cases the equipment supporting the copper service was so outdated that we could not even find replacement parts because the equipment had been discontinued. The objective was to improve service quality and customer satisfaction using the best communications network, and the result was clear: the program has been very successful. More than 300,000 customers migrated to Verizon’s fiber-optic network.  These customers enjoy super-reliable, faster fiber at the same rates they were paying all along.

In non-fiber areas, Verizon developed Voice Link to take advantage of wireless technology to address voice customers served on the copper network who have had chronic repairs issues.

After Sandy hit, Verizon realized that wireless technology also would be an ideal solution for customers in areas the storm destroyed or severely damaged. It has helped us reconnect hundreds of people and businesses. Don’t take our word for it. See what these customers have to say. (3 minutes)

Tom Maguire is Verizon’s senior vice president of network operations support.

Currently there are 17 comments on this Article:

  1. I can only assume that since the costs of voicelink are so much lower to Verizon, that those who receive voicelink will pay much less than they used to for copper.

    • Scott says:

      You can already get the same cellular home phone service from MVNO’s like Straight Talk for $15/mo, however I’d guarantee good ol’ Verizon intends to charge the same amount for Voice Link as the current copper phone line service ran plus gouge people at $10/gb on data use once that’s available.

  2. Good luck getting bandwidth speed on a crowded weekend! Pity the poor residents and also weekenders. This will just be an enormous black eye for Verizon. They clearly don’t understand the law of wireless gravity! http://bit.ly/ZRqwrG

  3. “A multimillion dollar investment with no guarantee that residents of the island will even subscribe to our services makes no economic sense. In fact, that’s probably why Verizon is the sole provider on the island.” There are so many wrong things in these 2 statements.

    1) our entire telecom policy fails us when we give out ROWs and frequency licenses without open access in return. Not only is it good for the end users and highly generative for the economy, but it has been proven to be highly scalable with high ROI for facilities providers in the 1980s and 1990s. We’ve just never pursued this policy uniformly and that has been the failure.

    2) It’s clear that monopolies will never risk capital.

    3) Sole provider because, let’s see, Verizon has a government granted monopoly in most areas of the state and in particular the government has protected your mid-mile investment from broadbased competition.

    4) To focus on “voice usage” as the determinant is so 1980s. Just goes to show where the company’s head, heart and physical infrastructure are.

    • What “government granted monopoly” does Verizon currently have?

      I’m tired of hearing government blamed for the lack of competition in 2013. The lack of competition is due to the structure of these investments, not government outlawing competition. There are some policies that certainly should be more pro-competitive but the big cable and telcos lobby hard to ensure they have advantages. But since 1996, government has made exclusive franchises illegal.

      • Chris,

        All the government needs to do is enforce equal access in layer 1 as a quid pro quo for having exclusive access to a ROW or frequency. It should have applied this irrespective of market position to all providers back in 1996. What few realize is that equal/open access created the voice, data and mobile digitization waves of the 1980s-90s. Essentially creating today’s landscape.

        Government is to blame for putting up numerous roadblocks locally, at the state level and nationally. They do it in the form of auctions, licenses, subsidies, taxes, zoning, etc…. The only one that makes sense is zoning and a lot more thought should be given as to how we share facilities, conduit and minimize the environmental impact of layer 0.

        I agree with you that it is not just government to blame, but academics, trade management and capital markets who still worship the vertical integration gods as well. Their myth is clearly being dispelled by competitive horizontal forces that are scaling more rapidly. Google Fiber/video and 802.11ac to wit.

        All the independent local efforts you track are commendable, but less than 5% of traffic on a typical smartphone or internet connection can be counted on as local. Therefore, a coordinated rethink and approach to information and network theory is in order 100 years after we entered into the fraudulent and farcical Kingsbury Commitment. It’s time to dispel the notion of natural monopoly (again only an artificial one exists wrt ROW and frequency), for moore’s and metcalfe’s laws to be unleashed in unison again, for bandwidth costs to drop 90-99% and for broadband to be universally accessible (and even free).

        Michael

        • It is a compelling response, I just ask that you not give the impression to people that there is a government monopoly when you are making a complicated argument about a specific regulation that would encourage competition. Not having that policy is not the same as granting a monopoly in my mind.

          • Question to any of the readers. Have any of the towns looked into the feasibility of fiber used to support a high capacity mesh network? The biggest component/cost would be the underwater or overground backhaul to a low-cost WAN POP. I’m sure there is a great real estate and commercial play here to get those interests, in addition to public safety involved. It would be a great money maker during the high season providing offload to transients. These are not poor communities. Their rallying cry should be “JFV: just forget verizon.” I leave it up to others to substitute forget with another word beginning in “f”.

            • Henry McKelvey says:

              Hello,

              That is a good idea, and I applaud you for it. Now for the bad news; most local governments have fiber in the ground, but they do not want to pay for the house to house connections, even if this is wireless, they have problems with providing routers for connectivity. Even a solution like local wifi gets shot down. This is a workable idea, Getting government buy in is the problem.

              • Public Wi-Fi has a very mixed history. In my experience, it works best in the press release announcing it and things start to go downhill from there. The problem is upkeep and expansion. We have a public-private Wi-Fi network in Rochester administered by Frontier. It has a handful of low powered “free” hotspots that work best from the parking lot, are speed throttled, and often stop working.

                Frontier also sells a $9.95 a month access package on the more robust Wi-Fi signals it administers. Even some of those have quietly stopped working, so the same faults seem to erupt even when a commercial provider is administering the network.

                Wi-Fi equipment does need maintenance and network problems have to be addressed, but a lot of these are run more like “install it and forget it” operations. Sometimes you even end up on a good signal, but the network connectivity is broken and has been for weeks.

                • Henry McKelvey says:

                  Hello Mr. Dampier,

                  You are correct, WiFi Sucks! that’s Why I suggested using a PON based FiOS like system with wireless if necessary. The choice not to deploy FiOS is not a technical one, it is a corporate culture issue; Verizon has chosen to push wireless even though it has the ability to deploy fiber for superiour data quality. The deployment of fiber is not hard and it does not cost a lot of money, mainly if the local governement foots part of the bill for local run fiber and MFDP (Main Fiber Distribution Panel) deployment. The fact is Verizon would push back because they want to push wireless and nothing but. Like I said this is not a technical issue, it is a corporate culture issue.

  4. James Cieloha says:

    Every Verizon customer in Fire Island, New York should be ashamed of Verizon for choosing to abandoned wireline service in favor of the Voice Link wireless serivce in Fire Island, New York very severely.

    I feel that Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon are trying to be way too big being like the Wal-Mart’s, the Marlboro’s, the Joe Camel’s, the Paramount Pictures with the movie theater chain of the 1940’s, the Morris Levy’s when he was part of Roulette Records, the Clive Davis’s when he was at Columbia Records in the 1970′s, the Neil Bogart’s of Casablanca Records fame of the 1970′s disco era, the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s, the David Smith (one of the Smith brothers from Sinclair Broadcast Group), the Perry Sock and the Nexstar Broadcasting Group, the Harry Pappas as part of the Pappas Telecasting Companies, the Bernard Madoff’s, the Enron’s, the Worldcom’s, the Adelphia’s, the Tyco’s, the Martha Stewart’s, the Jill Kelley’s, the Orie sister’s, and the Jesse Jackson Jr’s, of the 2000′s by letting greed get out of control so all of the head employees and bosses at Verizon to be able to enjoy carefree lavishly spending to support carefree lavishly lifestyles with luxurious homes, luxurious jets, luxurious cars, luxurious furs, join luxurious clubs, go to luxurious hotels, go to luxurious casinos to do gambling, go to horse races, throw luxurious parties, and have other luxurious items just to make them very happy then trying and willingness to improve the quality of all of their employees and making the customers very happy as well. I hope and I wish that Verizon goes out of business for their unwillingness to care for their customers and their employees. I feel that Verizon are trying to bribe like the General Tire/RKO General of the 1960′s and 1970′s by not being very honest of not only the customers and also on themselves.

    I hope and I wish that the FCC would allow all the television and telephone providers with internet broadband that has never ever impose usage caps to the internet broadband customers be allowed to purchase and acquired customers from Verizon and are being required to make a real big concession that they would promised not to have any difficulties with all the internet broadband providers competitors and their customers by not imposing usage caps and meters and raising prices for them to put them out of business sooner and without any interference for 12 straight whole years.

    I feel that Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon are way too big being way too busy trying to act like the Baauer’s, the PSY’s, the Carly Rae Jepsen’s, the Nicole Westbrook’s, the Rebecca Black’s, the Double Take’s, and the Guns N Roses Axl Rose as well as trying to be the Conrad Murray’s, the Jerry Sandusky’s as the assaulters, the Jodi Arias’s, the Casey Anthony’s, the Charles Starkweather’s, the Charles Manson’s, the Lyle and Erik Menendez’s, the O. J. Simpson’s, the Scott Peterson’s, and the Drew Peterson’s as the greedy murderers, the Amanda Bynes’s and the Lindsay Lohan’s as the drunk and the drug abusers, the Rodney Dangerfield’s, the John Belushi’s, and the Chris Farley’s as the comedians, the Gordon Gekko’s, the Victoria Grayson’s, the Victor Newman’s/the Jack Abbott’s, the J. R. Ewing’s/the Cliff Barnes’s, the Charles Montgomery Burn’s, the Homer and Bart Simpson’s, the Peter Griffin’s, the Mickey Mouse’s/the Minnie Mouse’s, the Bugs Bunny’s/the Daffy Duck’s/the Porky Pig’s, the Garfield cat’s, the Cookie Monster’s, the Miss Piggy’s, and the Pillsbury Doughboy’s, of the television, telephone and internet broadband industry of preferring to make customers be forced to have Voice LInk wireless service in Fire Island, New York.

    I feel that Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon are trying to turn into the 1919 Chicago White Sox’s baseball team and the Southern Methodist University football of the 1980′s to force all the customers to accept whether or not the customers will be willing to deal with Verizon customer service and making them deal with just having Voice Link wireless service in Fire Island, New York by the use of extortion. I urge all the Verizon customers in Fire Island, New York to boycott Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon right now for making all the customers suffer from having to deal with being forced to be stuck with having Voice Link wireless service in Fire Island, New York in a big huge ugly game of baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw chicken in the future of the telephone industry.

    I’m commented in response to all Verizon customers who are very sick and tired of all the ways Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon to make sure that communities don’t build their own broadband networks and have fears to see Verizon internet service deteriorate very much rapidly in a heartbeat in Fire Island, New York.

    I gracefully would support all community internet broadband providers and would want all of them to be able to be allowed to provide the fastest internet speeds of up to 1GB very fairly by the communities being allowed to build their own fiber optics cable lines without interference from Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon with the fact that Verizon is already providing very limited internet broadband service at way less broadband speeds to all of their own customers.
    I hope and I wish that Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon is willing to allow all the communites to build out their own fiber optic cable networks for their superior mega fast internet broadband service that beats out Verizon internet service and speeds to all of their own customers in Fire Island, New York.

  5. Shame Tom Mc Guire didn’t tell the whole truth about voice link and Verizon. Why are the testing it in Florida as project thunder?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-kushnick/verizons-wireless-voice-l_b_3451383.html

    Verizon already announced its plans to ‘abandon’ the copper wire years ago – it stopped building out its fiber optic FiOS service, except where it can’t get out of its cable franchise agreement

    And so Verizon’s plan in areas not upgraded has been to suggest – and sooner or later force customers onto wireless – including voice link. Or “Cantenna, an expensive wireless service being offered when you DSL line stops working

    But the real kicker is New Jersey, where Mantoloking and other towns were already supposed to have been upgraded with a fiber optic service capable of 45 Mbps in both directions by 2010. There’s even a current show cause order to force Verizon to do some other small towns – but now it’s time to force the entire state to be upgraded as 100% of the state was to have fiber optic services – Customers paid about $15 billion for an upgrade of the utility and counting… as the state never lowered rates when the services were not deployed.

    Instead, Verizon would rather give them a downgraded wireless service, that can’t even do data.

    And in New York, customers, including Fire Island customers’ , had their rates raised in 2009 to fund ‘fiber optic upgrades’ – but now these same customers aren’t getting refunds for services not rendered but downgraded.

    And Sandy damage? There are places in Manhattan, New York City and in the other boroughs that were never fixed post sandy… clearly showing just how much Verizon really cares about it’s customers.

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/telecom/wireless/lost-in-america-still-no-phone-service-after-hurricane-sandy

  6. I am going to give Mr. Maguire and Verizon their day today and let people absorb both sides of the argument. Longtime readers here know I don’t agree that this is enough for the people of Fire Island because of the broadband component. We’ll be covering this issue at length into the future.

  7. Henry McKelvey says:

    Hello All,

    I feel your distress, but Verizon is not going to do anything that does not make them money, real or imagined. Verizon has undergone a cultural change, which began with DSL and Verizon Wireless. These are the individuals who are now in charge of the company. They have linked everthing they don’t agree with to loss of revenue (whether or not it is a real issue). This is what is happening here it is not a technical issue because Verizon tomorrow could drop a PON based fiber line to the island and then use FiOS based technology to provide both Telephony and Data. The problem is they want to push Wireless. I feel for those people but Verizon has an agenda and as I have come to realize being a former DMTS for Verizon, the agenda is everything, customer be damned.

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