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Verizon gets OK to cut Fire Island landline service

The headquarters for Verizon Communications Inc. in Manhattan.

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

The state Public Service Commission yesterday approved a plan by Verizon to eliminate its landline service on western Fire Island, despite concerns from critics and a letter from the state attorney general’s office asking that a formal decision be tabled.

Verizon’s plan would allow it to abandon copper wire in favor of a wireless voice alternative called Voice Link in places where the company demonstrates that “a substantial portion of its facilities in the area is destroyed, rendered unusable or beyond reasonable repair.”

Residents in western Fire Island, where superstorm Sandy destroyed several miles of underground copper wire, are worried that Voice Link won’t work during electrical outages since it plugs into an outlet and has a limited battery life. And the attorney general’s office expressed concern that the plan could apply to any location in the company’s New York franchise.

A news release from the Public Service Commission calls the approval temporary and “limited to western Fire Island, pending public comment and a further review of documentation submitted by Verizon justifying its decision not to repair the damaged facilities.”

“The decision today is a novel, interim approach to an unusual set of circumstances resulting from superstorm Sandy, urged on by the need to have telephone service in place by the summer,” said PSC chairman Garry Brown in a statement.

The commission’s vote at its meeting to allow Verizon to replace landlines with Voice Link in Western Fire Island is not a final decision, the news release states, and the commission will seek comments on Verizon’s Voice Link technology “as it works to determine a permanent solution.”

According to the release, the PSC has also directed Verizon to provide it with a report evaluating Voice Link’s quality and reliability for Fire Island customers by Nov. 1.


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