By Ellis Nassour
I recently came across a Verizon internet ad, which states: Ready for your free HBO NOW trial? One month FREE trial. All you need is your internet.
But, I am not ready—because you’ve taken my internet.
The headline from a 2016 New York Post story reads: “Verizon Is Supposedly Screwing Its Landline Customers.” The home page of Stop the Cap, a Rochester-based nonprofit, features this headline: “New York Accuses Verizon of Abandoning Quality Landline Service; ‘It’s a Duopoly.’”
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is convinced that Verizon Communications has abandoned quality landline service for millions of New Yorkers as they divert resources to the more profitable sector of cell service and their Fiber Optic Service, FiOS.
Five-and-a-half years ago, Schneiderman blasted the state’s largest landline provider over mounting poor service complaints affecting then 92% of subscribers. He reported that landline infrastructure was being ignored, with copper wiring deteriorating without replacement. There was even a $400,000 fine from the Public Service Commission (PSC).
New York’s telephone service market has been described as a duopoly, where two suppliers dominate the market. All efforts to the contrary, including scathing headlines in The New York Times and New York Post, service has continued to degrade and the workforce has been drastically reduced. Even mandated changes to Verizon’s 2010 Service Quality Improvement Plan didn’t help.
Jump forward to the massive outages the company is facing—including the 77-day one (from March 26th to June 10th) that stripped over 70 West Village subscribers of landline/internet service due to a cable on the roof of 55 Gansevoort Street sliced by contractors doing the block-long reconstruction. This was the second such incident since January. That outage was repaired and service was restored in 10 days.
The recent outage “officially” ended June 10th for subscribers on Horatio Street and parts of Greenwich, Washington, Bleecker, and Cornelia Streets. It ended for most, but not all. The Verizon construction maintenance worker, who made the underground and basement box repairs states, “This is only temporary. It’ll happen again…Verizon isn’t interested in replacing the underground copper cables from the ‘40s and ‘50s.”
Knowledge gleaned from this nightmare opened a Pandora’s Box of continuing Village and Lower East Side problems. Two WestView readers (who made contact following the May article and neither of whom wanted his/her address/name published) spoke of difficulties they faced because of the outage. One, on Cornelia Street, faced a real dilemma; another, on Bleecker Street, a near nervous breakdown.
On April 3rd, when Verizon’s repairperson first arrived at our Horatio Street building, I advised, “You’ll be shocked when you open the cable box. Wires are tangled and corroded and phone lines have been double- and triple-jacked.” His reply was startling: “I wish I could say I’d be shocked, but your box is in good shape compared to downtown.”
I was informed that, in the past, Verizon would leap to address outages if three to five complaints were called in; but now the number is 25. However, even after 50-plus calls and a WestView article castigating Verizon, help never came. Each time you spoke to the Repair division, after long hold periods, you received apologies but a different date for the final resolution.
With today’s technology at Verizon’s fingertips, you might have thought that letters, media ads, cell phone messages, and even flyers on affected buildings would be in order. There was nothing. In fact, I kept getting cell messages that the problem had been resolved!
The Cornelia Street resident, who has a phone-linked device because of a hearing problem, says, “What a price to pay for telephone and broadband we don’t get—not only financially, but in lost time and aggravation. It’s outrageous how the “repair” dragged on with no end in sight—always with mystical estimated restoration dates. There were two months of calls to elected officials and the New York Public Service Commission.”
“ As challenging as my situation was,” he continues, “I wondered about those…enduring the same fate and [felt] that banding together might prove helpful.”
Two actions were considered—scheduling a meeting with the PSC and mounting a class-action lawsuit. The journey to track this labyrinth of corroded cable and to get a quick repair of the outage became a frustrating adventure in Catch-22ness—the problematic dilemma of no escape.
Most disappointing was the lack of response from those we depend upon for help: Community Board 2 District Manager Bob Gormley; Assistant District Manager Josh Thompson, designated to handle complaints; Quality of Life Chair Joseph Gallagher, whose committee, I hope, was made aware of our situation; and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
The Bleecker Street resident contacted the New York State Assembly representative for the 66th Assembly District (Lower Manhattan), Deborah Glick. Interns replied, but with no resolution.
On June 3rd, on the 70th day without service, I ran into two Verizon construction maintenance workers in our basement. I asked if service was being restored. “No,” replied one. “We’re just getting started. It’s going to be a while.” Dumbfounded, I asked, “Are you saying nothing has been done since March 26th?”
That’s what he was saying!