Rate Counsel Files With FCC to Block Verizon Switch to Fiber-Optic System

Division claims telecom giant’s moving subscribers from copper without telling them; subscribers worry about loss of service during outages

fiber optic
The Federal Communications Commission is being asked to order Verizon New Jersey to suspend pending disconnections of traditional copper phone service that will enable the telecommunications company to move customers to a new fiber-optic system.

In a filing with the federal agency, the state Division of Rate Counsel claims the company is switching certain residential customers to the new system without proper notification. The division also claims that the telecom company has not filed for the necessary authorization from regulators.

The complaint comes at a time when there is increasing focus among officials on the transition from decades-old wireline service to new fiber-optic systems, a technology Verizon said is more resilient and less susceptible to problems than copper service.

“In New Jersey, customers are alarmed, and assert they have been blindsided’’ by Verizon’s action, according to Rate Counsel Director Stefanie Brand, who filed the brief. Customers are “alarmed, afraid, and annoyed’’ at the way the plan is being implemented, she said.

Verizon disputed the accusation. “There’s no basis in facts for their claims,’’ said Lee Gierczynski, a spokesman for the company. “It’s a simple technology change; it’s not impacting the price or impacting the services.’’

In the filing, Brand said customers have told rate counsel they do not want to switch to the fiber-optic system because they do not believe it is a comparable service given the likelihood of interruptions of service during power outages.

But Gierczynski argued that the fiber system comes with battery backup that will ensure phone service in the event of an outage. The switch from copper is only occurring in areas where fiber optic is available.

Ironically, Verizon has come under fire in some parts of southern New Jersey from residents and officials over the lack of fiber service. The whole issue of the transition from traditional service to fiber networks is currently the subject of a proceeding before the FCC, according to Gierczynski.