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Updated: Stop the Cap! Learns Verizon Allegedly Trying to Sneak Wireless Voice Link Into the Catskills

Phillip Dampier June 26, 2013 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Verizon, Wireless Broadband 2 Comments

exclusiveStop the Cap! has received information from customers and anonymous employees that Verizon Communications is allegedly attempting to pressure seasonal residents in the rural Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York to give up their landline phone service in favor of the company’s wireless alternative, Voice Link, in potential violation of an order from the New York Public Service Commission limiting its deployment to sections of Fire Island.

Two Verizon customers who own vacation property in the mountainous region of upstate New York in and around Monticello separately contacted Stop the Cap! after doing online research on the wireless product Verizon representatives attempted to sell them.

Both reported they were pressured by Verizon’s service/repair department to accept the landline alternative after attempting to reconnect their seasonal telephone service. In one case, a customer had to call Verizon three times to attempt to reconnect her disconnected phone line after a missed appointment.

“They wanted nothing to do with coming out here to put my old phone line back in service,” says the customer, one of two we have been asked to leave unidentified in light of certain forthcoming legal proceedings. “I got transferred twice and finally ended up talking to someone pushing something called Voice Link.”

Verizon Voice Link: The company's landline replacement, works over Verizon Wireless.

Verizon Voice Link

The customer tells us she never heard of Voice Link and Googled information about it, ending up on Stop the Cap!’s website which has maintained ongoing coverage of the product’s introduction on Fire Island.

“I called them back and told them they must be mistaken because I don’t own property on Fire Island and they told me it was no mistake and that they were preparing to distribute Voice Link all across the area and I was lucky to be among the first before they ran out,” the customer tells us.

The second customer, who has since taken his complaint to the Attorney General of New York, claims he was offered the same service from Verizon a week later.

“When I called to get my dial tone back, Verizon transferred me to a special repair representative who wanted to install Voice Link instead,” he tells us. “It was explained I would be better off with Voice Link and would get more calling features for less money and get national calling, free voicemail, and all of these other extras.”

The customer tried to turn the offer down, but Verizon made it difficult to refuse.

“You really had to argue with them and say no at least a dozen times,” our reader tells us. “The reason I said no is that I tried that same type of service from Verizon Wireless and it sucked. I raised my voice and they finally agreed to reconnect my phone.”

We have also received e-mail from individuals claiming to be Verizon employees represented by the Communications Workers of America indicating Verizon delivered a large shipment of Voice Link units for deployment in the Catskills, despite the fact Verizon is apparently not authorized by the PSC to offer the service to customers outside of the western half of Fire Island, and only on an interim basis.

Verizon’s use of Voice Link in upstate New York will almost certainly raise questions with regulators who negotiated the agreement with Verizon over the limited use of Voice Link during its evaluation, especially if customers report they were not offered the service only as an option.

If the allegations are true, Verizon may be signaling its confidence it will succeed adopting Voice Link as a mandatory rural landline replacement in parts of New York State and isn’t waiting for final approval from the PSC.

Verizon’s Jarryd Gonzales denied Verizon is responsible for any wrongdoing, noting nothing in the PSC’s Fire Island proceeding restricts Verizon’s ability to offer Voice Link service as an option, which he confirmed the company was doing in Monticello. (See PSC order here, reference page five: “Finally, the amendment will not apply in areas where Verizon offers the alternative wireless service as an optional service [i.e., traditional wired facilities are still in place].”)

“Verizon’s VoiceLink is an innovative and proven product that already is providing quality and reliable voice telephone service to residents of Fire Island and other areas,” Gonzales tells Stop the Cap! “It is a repair option for our customers who have had continued and lingering difficulties with their copper-based telephone service.  It uses wireless technology which has proven to be resilient, and which millions of people use millions of times each day.”

[Update 4:25pm ET]

The New York Attorney General’s office has announced they have filed an Emergency Petition with the New York Public Service Commission to prohibit Verizon from “illegally installing” Voice Link service in direct violation of its tariff.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has asked the Commission to sanction Verizon for its actions detailed in this formal complaint:

The Attorney General’s Office has recently learned that Verizon intends to require customers outside of the Fire Island pilot area seeking to have their wireline service installed accept instead wireless Voice Link service, notwithstanding the Commission’s May 16 Order. According to reports by representatives of the Communications Workers of America, Verizon has delivered a pallet load of Voice Link devices to its Monticello Installation/Maintenance Center, and has instructed its technicians in that region to provide summer seasonal customers returning to Catskill vacation homes, who have long been received Verizon wireline service, only Voice Link service.

The union’s report is corroborated by two complaints of Verizon seasonal customers who have been told Voice Link will be installed instead of repairing their wire line telephone service. Only by firmly refusing Voice Link were both customers able to keep their wireline service.

Unlike Fire Island, wireline network damage from Superstorm Sandy cannot be used as an excuse for substituting Voice Link for wireline service in the Catskills, where the storm had limited impact. Instead, it appears that in the Catskills, Verizon has chosen to pursue the company’s business strategy in blatant disregard for the Commission’s Order.

The Commission’s May 16 Order could not have been clearer in limiting Verizon’s substitution of Voice Link for wire line service to western Fire Island, to enable evaluation of this unproven technology on a pilot basis.

Verizon’s provision of Voice Link outside the confines of western Fire Island is illegal, and its open defiance of the Commission’s May 16 Order must be met with effective sanctions.

[Update 4:33pm ET]


[Article further updated at 5:17pm ET to include statement from Verizon Communications.]

Currently there are 2 comments on this Article:

  1. James Cieloha says:

    Every Verizon customer in rural Catskill Mountain in upstate New York should be ashamed of Verizon for choosing to abandoned wireline service in favor of the Voice Link wireless serivce in rural Catskill Mountain in upstate New York very severely.

    This is an excuse for Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon wanting to try 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, luxurious jewelry, 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. This is an excuse for Verizon 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.

    This is an excuse for Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon wanting to be 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 Mayor Quimby’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 it’s customers be forced to have Voice Link wireless service in rural Catskill Mountain in upstate New York.

    This is an excuse for Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo with Verizon trying to turn into the 1919 Chicago White Sox’s baseball team and the Southern Methodist University football team 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 rural Catskill Mountain in upstate New York by the use of extortion. I urge all the Verizon customers in rural Catskill Mountain in upstate 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 rural Catskill Mountain in upstate 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.

    Wireline phone and internet is useful for web users to look at for news and weather reports as well as for important emergencies. I feel that all of the fat cat politicians and the fat cat phone and internet providers want to see wireline service to go away and force all of the wireline customers to pay up a lot more money for the right to keep phone and internet service so all of the fat cat politicians and the fat phone and internet providers can have carefree lavish spending to fully support their endless greedy lavish lifestyles for their own political gain by way of block booking and extortion is so very shameful and so very disgraceful in my own personal opinion and theory. I feel that all of the fat cat phone and internet providers and the fat cat politicians have never learned from various scandals happening in the past. Have those fat cat phone and internet providers and fat cat politicians learned from the Paramount Pictures practice of block booking with theatrical theatres of the 1940’s, No, the General Tire/RKO General broadcasting license scandal of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, No, the Southern Methodist University football team scandal of the 1980’s, No. These are examples of what I feel that all of the fat cat phone and internet providers and the fat cat politicians are trying to do to attack wireline phone and internet service in the United States Of America in a few years into the future.

    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 rural Catskill Mountain in upstate 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 rural Catskill Mountain in upstate New York.

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