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Verizon accused of forcing customers off copper onto fibre

Verizon is accused of letting its copper network in California get into such a state of disrepair that customers are forced to switch to its fibre or wireless products.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

As Australia's NBN Co moves to get the first 25,000 premises off the copper network and onto the fibre-based National Broadband Network (NBN) before deactivating Telstra's network, Verizon in the United States is being accused of leaving its copper network in such a state of disrepair that customers are being forced onto the fibre network.

The claim was made last week by The Utility Reform Network (TURN), first reported by BGR

The organisation filed an emergency motion with the California Public Utilities Commission seeking to force Verizon to maintain its landline networks in the state, claiming that Verizon is failing to repair its copper lines, and is seeking to push customers onto either Verizon's fibre-based product, FiOS, or its wireless voice service, Voice Link.

"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," TURN telecommunications director Regina Costa said.

The organisation claimed that customers on FiOS and Voice Link would lose phone services and access to emergency services during power outages.

In Australia, battery backup for voice services during power outages is optional, but it is still a matter of contention over how a retail service provider obtains informed consent from a premises owner for deciding against having a battery.

TURN said that FiOS installation times are quick, but repair of copper lines are "subject to long delays, if they happen at all."

The organisation is requesting that CPUC force Verizon to repair copper lines for customers who have requested it

"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 minimising the service Californians receive."

In a statement provided to Ars Technica, Verizon denied that it was not repairing its copper lines, saying that customers on copper in a fibre network area are given the option to move to fibre to improve their service for no charge, but no one has been forced to take fibre services without consent. 

It comes as NBN Co and retail service providers are engaged in a marketing blitz ahead of the copper switch off in 15 communities, affecting approximately 25,000 premises from May 23.

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