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Brookhaven Town Supervisor opposes Verizon plan to replace Fire Island landlines

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine opposes Verizon's plan

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine opposes Verizon's plan to replace landlines with wireless technology. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara, 2013

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine has joined the opposition to Verizon’s plan to replace landlines on Fire Island with a wireless alternative.

“Our concern isn’t only for Fire Island,” Romaine said Tuesday at a news conference at the Davis Park Ferry Terminal in Patchogue. “Our concern is while they’re impacting a few communities in Fire Island, this . . . will spread to all of Fire Island and possibly to the main island.”

Romaine joined State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the AARP, New York representatives from the Communications Workers of America, and dozens of Fire Island and Suffolk County fire departments in publicly decrying Verizon’s efforts to replace landline home phone service on Fire Island with the new technology, called Voice Link, which runs off the wireless network and which the company said will better withstand events like superstorm Sandy.

Sandy caused damage to miles of underground cable on western Fire Island, Verizon officials have said. After the storm, the company decided to replace downed landlines there with Voice Link. On May 16, the state Public Service Commission issued a temporary approval for Verizon to implement the wireless service on western Fire Island, “because it is critical that service be available on Fire Island immediately.”

Among the concerns expressed by Romaine and councilman Timothy P. Mazzei, who represents several Fire Island communities, is that Voice Link is powered through the grid and would provide 36 hours of power and about two hours of talk time on its rechargeable battery during a power outage, and that it doesn’t provide support for medical alert systems or DSL Internet service for residents and businesses on the island. It also does not allow for international dialing, Romaine said.

“My experience with the people over on Fire Island is, for lack of a better way of putting it, they’re more comfortable with the landlines,” Mazzei said. “We’re just concerned that the residents have a voice.”

The PSC is accepting comments on Voice Link until Sept. 13.

“Verizon VoiceLink is a product that works over proven and reliable wireless technology that millions of us use millions of times each day,” Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said via email. “On Fire Island we already have more than 500 homes using the voice-only product, with only minimal issues, all of which have been corrected.”

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