State commission praises Verizon's new plan for Fire Island

The headquarters for Verizon Communications Inc. in Manhattan.

The headquarters for Verizon Communications Inc. in Manhattan. (Credit: AP, 2005)

The state Public Service Commission has lauded Verizon's decision to offer fiber-optic cable on western Fire Island as an alternative to Voice Link, the controversial wireless home phone technology the carrier was using to replace storm-damaged landlines.

In a news release yesterday, commission officials said they would "quickly review" the plan to offer FiOS Digital Voice, FiOS Internet and voice-over-fiber service in addition to Voice Link in the barrier island's western communities.

"We are pleased, given the substance, passion and sheer number of public comments we received arguing strongly against Verizon's plans, that Verizon decided to take a step back and reconsider how it will meet its mandated responsibility to provide safe and reliable telephone service to the residents and businesses on Fire Island," commission chairwoman Audrey Zibelman said in a statement.

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In May, the PSC temporarily approved Verizon's plan to replace flooded landlines in the superstorm Sandy-ravaged west end of Fire Island with Voice Link, inviting customers to comment and requiring Verizon to submit an evaluation of the service by November.

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said the company is gradually rolling the new wireless service out across the state as an option for customers who have chronic issues with their landlines.

But in other areas, customers can choose to switch to a different provider. On Fire Island, Verizon is the only landline carrier, and for months residents overwhelmingly criticized Voice Link's service as unreliable and bemoaned its lack of Internet and fax capability.

"We have every confidence in Voice Link as a viable, reliable option for plain old telephone service," Bonomo said by email. Fire Island "residents told us they needed more; we listened to them."

The company expects to start physically implementing fiber-optics on the west end of the island by the end of this month, he said.

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