TURN Seeks Emergency Halt to Verizon Copper-Cutting

Wants CPUC President To Act To Protect Consumers

Contact: Mindy Spatt, TURN, 415.929.8876, ext. 306

Tuesday, March 18, 2014, San Francisco–In an emergency motion filed at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) yesterday, TURN is requesting relief for customers who Verizon has cut off basic landline phone service and forced to purchase inferior internet service- in some cases without their knowledge or consent. Following CPUC President Michael Peevey’s annual report to the Legislature’s Senate Energy Utilities and Communications Committee today, phone company workers testified that copper cutting is widespread and customers are being put at risk.

TURN cited customer complaints from Long Beach, Torrance and Cerritos that accuse Verizon of refusing to fix customers’ copper service. TURN telecommunications director Regina Costa said “Verizon’s practice of allowing its copper network to deteriorate and then attempting to migrate basic telephone service customers to either FiOS or Voice Link without notice, explanation or choice is harmful to the public.”

Basic telephone service customers who are forcibly switched lose valued regulatory protections and service quality. Verizon’s FiOS and Voice Link services rely on the power system and during lengthy power outages, phones—including access to 911 — will cease to operate when the customers’ batteries are depleted.

Complaints cited by TURN include one from a customer whose grandmother’s phone line was suspended “due to the fact that she has not upgraded… She is an elderly woman and does not wish to be forced into having something that …she does not require.” Verizon had informed them that the woman would be without service if she refused to switch.

Verizon is quick to offer FiOS installation, but requested repairs of copper-based phone service are subject to long delays, if they happen at all. One complaint stated “Verizon is threatening that if we don’t switch over to digital and get rid of copper that their response time for fixing any phone problems will go from 1 to two days to two weeks.”

TURN is requesting that the Commission order Verizon to repair the service of copper-based landline telephone customers who have requested repair or wish to retain the copper services they were cut off of. “The CPUC should not turn its back on basic phone customers, or allow Verizon to renege on its obligations to provide reliable service,” Costa said. “It should not allow Verizon to maximize profits while minimizing the service Californians receive.”