2013-07-12 / Top Stories

Addabbo Says No To Wi-Fi Only Phone System

By Dan Guarino

State Senator Joseph Addabbo is cosponsoring a bill that would put on hold Verizon’s plan to replace all existing hardwired landline phones with a wireless only system. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy many phone customers have been advised that the company will not be replacing their previously existing, damaged phone lines.

Addabbo’s bill (S.5630) would prevent Verizon from immediately going forward with a new wireless system in areas where the company does not want to replace copper-based landline service that was destroyed by storm.

“(After) Hurricane Sandy,” said the senator, “this company is refusing to rebuild the copper-based landline system in areas like Broad Channel and is instead trying to force customers to accept a new wireless system called VoiceLink,” Addabbo serves on the Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy. As a matter of policy, well before the storm Verizon was no longer repairing or replacing their old system, steering residential and business customers towards its internet based Fios system. A key factor in the older system’s reliability is that it has its own built-in power supply. The power necessary to run the system comes directly through the lines themselves. It functions independently of all other utility company grids. During recent electrical outages, including those after Sandy, these systems were still able to function while fiber optic internet or wireless based systems were not.

Expressing concern on a number service issues with the new system, Addabbo stated, “it appears that this wireless plan is fraught with a number of serious problems: some businesses will be unable to process credit card sales; no auxiliary power will be available in the event of a blackout; faxes, alarms and medical alert systems may not work; people with hearing impairments may be negatively affected, and service may be less than ideal at times of emergency when it’s needed most. We need the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to step in and take a hard look at this communications plan before and if it’s fully implemented.”

The bill would establish a moratorium for any telephone companies in New York State that are planning to replace landline telephone service with wireless systems. During the period of the moratorium, the PSC would hold public hearings and conduct a comprehensive study of the proposed change in telephone service and determine its potential risks and benefits for consumers. The plan is also receiving criticism from the State Attorney General and groups representing workers, senior citizens and others who would be affected. “The moratorium…would ensure that the wireless plan could not be forced on telephone customers in other areas without public input and necessary study,” said Addabbo. “…I’m not going to sit back and allow my constituents, who have already been battered by this storm, face the potential loss of necessary, reliable phone service,” he said. The proposed legislation is now under consideration by the Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications, and the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.

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