A coalition of more than 30 consumer advocates and labor/community organizations today announced a campaign demanding that telecommunications giants like Verizon stop forcing customers off traditional copper line phone service and onto a substandard, unregulated wireless product called VoiceLink.
The coalition has launched a petition on their new website, calling on the NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to take action and investigate VoiceLink’s feasibility for widespread residential and commercial use.
“Verizon is cynically using the shadow of Sandy to install VoiceLink everywhere,” said Ann Vardeman of NJ Citizen Action. “Whether or not you have access to quality communation services shouldn’t depend upon the luck of where you live, how rich your neighbors are or whether your community was harmed by the hurricane.”
“Substantial areas of New Jersey are being left out and left behind,” said Bob Master, CWA District One Legislative and Political Director. ”On the other side of the Hudson, Verizon tried forcing VoiceLink onto Fire Island customers. But following public outcry, the company committed to building a fiber optic network and install FiOS services. It’s inconceivable to me that New Jersey will allow its residents to be treated as second-class citizens. VoiceLink is merely outdated wireless technology masquerading as traditional landline service.”
The coalition – which includes AARP NJ Manager of Advocacy and NJ Main Street Alliance – hailed the recent advancement of A2459 – a bipartisan-supported bill mandating a moratorium on forcing customers onto VoiceLink while its feasibility is considered. Last week, the bill passed the Assembly Telecommunications Committee. Coalition organizers said the legislation is necessary because the BPU is failing to protect consumers and exercise its regulatory authority.
The group’s petition can be viewed at www.DontHangUpOnNJ.org/bpu-petition/
Verizon issued a statement referring to the critics’ claims as being “completely devoid of fact.”
“Verizon is committed to serving our customers with the best technologies and best networks to meet their communications needs. Voice Link is a highly reliable optional voice-only service that uses our tried and true wireless network to provide service. It includes enhanced 911 capability with fixed location services, a 72-hour battery back-up with easily replaceable AA batteries and features such as Caller ID and voice mail,” a Verizon spokesperson said in a statement.
“Contrary to the misinformation critics have been spreading, Voice Link is an optional service that is available to Verizon customers across New Jersey served by our copper-based network. Nobody is forced to take it. Today, more than 1,800 customers have chosen Voice Link as their product of choice for voice service because of its great reliability and low cost. And in parts of the Mantoloking area where Voice Link is the only voice option available from Verizon, Voice Link has been a reliable service for a little more than 70 customers, with few complaints about the service.
“It is in the best interest of our customers and Verizon to provide solutions that meet our customers’ unique communications needs. And Voice Link is just that – a reliable and practical optional solution available to eligible customers across New Jersey.”