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TMCNet:  Asbury Park Press, N.J., David P. Willis column

[February 14, 2013]

Asbury Park Press, N.J., David P. Willis column

Feb 14, 2013 (Asbury Park Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Wall resident James J. Hallock found out early one morning that his high-speed Internet access was down.

He had a flavor of quick access called digital subscriber line, commonly referred to as DSL, and offered by Verizon Communications.

He checked for an issue in his home. His wife later called Verizon's customer service line. "A Verizon tech explained that the service was no longer being offered," Hallock said.

Afterward, he said, a sales representative convinced his wife to switch from its traditional telephone service, which, like its digital subscriber line, is transmitted over copper wires, to Verizon's new fiber-optic network. His Internet access would be offered over fiber too.

Hallock was upset. He said his DSL was discontinued "without prior notification." Plus, he was told he had to give up his old phone service, which stayed on during power outages, in favor of a service that only has a battery backup.

He canceled the fiber upgrade before it was installed. He contacted Press on Your Side. He also made a call to the state Board of Public Utilities.

"In the last outage I saw, people were out of electricity for weeks," Hallock said in an email. "I don't believe it's true that we have to give up traditional phone service, but try spending hours on the phone with Verizon to find out." Press on Your Side reached out to Verizon spokesman Lee J. Gierczynski. "We don't discontinue a customer's service without notification, so we'll have to find out more about what specifically is going on with this customer," he said.

He later arranged a call with Tom Maguire, Verizon's vice president of national operations.

"We don't cut people's service off," Maguire said. (Verizon does cut service off if you don't pay your bill, but that's not the case with the Hallocks.) He attributed the situation to a communications problem.

Verizon's customer service got involved after the Hallocks called to complain their DSL service was down.

Verizon is in the midst of a national effort to move customers from older copper telephone lines to the fiber-optic network.

Built for FiOS, Verizon is using fiber lines for traditional phone services now too, Maguire said.

Copper lines are susceptible to damage. For instance, a pinhole in a cable can cause water to infiltrate the line and cause a service disruption.

Fiber-optic lines, which carry information as bursts of light over strands of glass, don't have these issues.

They're more reliable, and in many cases, are actually physically next to the copper ones on utility poles.

When customers call with problems, they may benefit by cost and service to move over to fiber, Maguire said.

"They are given the opportunity to move over to the network," he said. "They are not forced." If they choose, they can stay with their copper service, he added.

"The intent was and remains pretty simple. Give customers better service, same price." There's a benefit to Verizon too.

More customers on fiber means fewer service calls.

"From the company's perspective, we are better able to control our dispatch costs," Maguire said.

But there's been some glitches in Verizon's message.

Some people thought by moving to fiber, they had to pay more.

The company has sought to improve the steps it takes to educate customers, he said. "They don't pay a nickel more" to move their current service to fiber, Maguire said.

Services, such as security monitoring, work on fiber as well, he added.

In the case of the Hallocks, Verizon offered them a fiber service that would have lowered their monthly bill, Maguire said.

Hallock thanked Press on Your Side for the help and information.

But now he's switched to Verizon's competitor, Cablevision's Optimum service, picking up a bundle for television, high-speed Internet and telephone. Hallock kept his copper telephone line from Verizon as a second line for emergencies.

Do you have a consumer problem that needs solving Contact business writer David P. Willis and he will try to help. Reach him at pressonyourside@ njpressmedia.com.

___ (c)2013 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at www.app.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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