FCC refuses automatic OK of Verizon plan for Fire Island
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The Federal Communications Commission has refused to automatically approve Verizon's application to discontinue landline phone service on parts of Fire Island and the New Jersey coast, where superstorm Sandy damaged the communication company's infrastructure, the agency announced this week.
The Wireline Competition Bureau of the FCC published public notices on June 28 that Verizon's applications to abandon its landlines would be automatically granted on Aug. 27 unless the bureau notified Verizon that the grants would be denied, which they were on Tuesday.
In its notice, the FCC said it typically authorizes the discontinuance of service "when there are no concerns that customers or other end users would be unable to receive service or a reasonable substitute from another carrier."
But the FCC has received more than 70 public comments on the case, "with several commenters voicing concerns about the limitations of Voice Link service," the proposed alternative, and "its suitability as a replacement for the wireline telecommunications services Verizon proposes to discontinue."
The commission said the removal of the application from the automatic grant process is not a final determination "on the merits of Verizon's request," but indicates that further review is needed.
After Sandy flooded underground cables on western Fire Island, Verizon -- the only landline provider there -- announced it would discontinue landline service and replace it with a home phone service that operates through the wireless network.
"We encourage the FCC to complete its review of this narrow petition limited to these discrete communities quickly," Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said via email.
Fire Island residents hailed the FCC's decision.
"This is a wonderful first step and hopefully the beginning of a thorough examination of the situation," said Jim Rosenthal of Dunewood.