Verizon Looks to Cut the Copper Wire

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Verizon is hoping to pilot a new phone system that doesn’t rely on costly copper wiring in areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Under a plan currently before regulators the telecommunications giant would turn home phones in areas like Fire Island into “tethered” cell phones. New York Times reporter Patrick McGeehan talks about the controversial switch.


Patrick McGeehan

Comments [21]

Verizon will never take my copper line. Whenever the power goes out the landline works WITHOUT FAIL. I just plug in my spare phone with the cord and handset into the Verizon phone jack, and always get a dial tone. I don't want FIOS, bundling, or their BS. I live in a well-populated suburb in NJ, not near a flood zone or the shore. There is no need to change my service.

May. 26 2013 11:50 AM
JA from WEestchester

I understand that DSL won't work using fiber optic.

May. 24 2013 12:20 AM
JA from Westchester

I heard that (NY State at least) will have no say over the operation/reliability over the fiber-optic system as it does now over the copper system. AND -- how long do the batteries for the fiber system last during an outage?

May. 23 2013 05:37 PM
Mate from New Jersey

We lost power for 7 days during Sandy. Our VOIP phone lost power after a couple of hours because the available battery backup is very limited. We kept one landline and we had dial tone during the entire power outage. Our town has reverse 911; we were able to get their emergency messages only on the landline phone. We also rely a lot on Caller ID; I don't think VoiceLink will support Caller ID. My experience with Verizon has impressed me with the fact that their first priority is their bottom line; customer satisfaction and convenience are on the bottom rung.

May. 23 2013 01:59 PM
Betsy from NYC

Yes, it is way more labor and material expensive, however
1. The obvious one is that it is totally union busting.
2. I personally will never have a cell phone - it amazes me that informed people take part in this technology which is so hideous from sourcing eg coltan poison/bush meat "economy" horrors, to suicide net manufacturing, to totally cynical population-poisoning demanufacturing. (In addition to the health concerns of having these devices on your body, their towers in your neighborhood, the satellites themselves, etc.)
3. All fire box dedicated lines are Verizon-type. (Think daycares and everywhere else.)
4. If you want 911 to know where you are, for people concerned about their health, wired phones are the ones in the i.d. system (which is why many people with cell phones keep their hardwired).
All of the above are absolutely life and death.
Thank you.

May. 23 2013 01:56 PM

jm - here's a telecomm tale from NJ. We had Verizon's copper lines for phone and DSL for ~20 years. We kept it because it was reasonbly priced and continued to work in power outages.
Service became less and less reliable as the copper degraded. Verizon's response to our many complaints was to 'switch us to a different pair', i.e., a physically separate circuit within the same cable, and hope the problem would go away. Eventually, we reached a point where there were no more pairs to choose from. And they ceased attempting to repair or replace the copper cable itself. Last year, they simply announced that our neighborhood was being transitioned to all-fiber distribution. So, bye-bye DSL, hello FIOS. And since then, we have seen the vulnerability to local power outages -- because the battery backup only lasts a few hours -- and an area power outage, such as occurred after Sandy, can keep the phones out for days or weeks.
As others have pointed out here, the telecom companies (it's not just Verizon) are moving to elude the legislative scrutiny and regulation that previously compelled them to maintain reliable service in the face of foreseeable events, particularly natural disasters. I suspect that it will take a few more traumatic events that directly affect the politicians and regulators, and we will see a new regulatory framework emerge wherein the provision of telecom and data services are treated as a public trust, with consequent demands for measurable, high reliability. But it will be some time, I'm afraid.

May. 23 2013 01:56 PM
musicmsn9E from Fire Island

I had learned in school that public utilities were protected to guarantee a profit in order to provide service in less profitable areas. By doing away with "expensive" copper wire in the western part of Fire island,, Verizon is also doing away with uncapped DSL service for data. The internet is not under the NYS Public Service Commission. The alternative offered by Verizon is a much more expensive hot spot. If VoiceLink is inevitable then Verizon should offer a better, less expensive internet service. Any way you look at it, Verizon is screwing us on Fire island.

May. 23 2013 01:49 PM
Kathleen Brandt

Dear Leonard Lopate, On 9/11, when cell phones went dead, my Manhattan land line continued to function both locally and permitted calls to other states. Shouldn't that remain a serious consideration? Thanks

May. 23 2013 01:39 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Listen, the habits of "most kids today" is nothing to base public policy on...
Increasing cell-phone reliance is more of function of income-inequality economics than informed decision-making.
So consequential a shift requires more public information and discourse.

May. 23 2013 01:38 PM
Zuwena from Manhattan

Hi Leonard,
Tried to reach you by phone will the Verizon segment was on. I just transitioned to the fiber optic--it's terrible and the technicians do not know what they are doing in most instances. More importantly, I believe that one of the reasons for the Verizon push is that the PSC will NOT have jurisdiction over Verizon to the same degree once there is no copper wire involved. I have been told that the fiber optics do not fall under the Public Service Commissions jurisdiction. This is just one more way in which those that have want more and will stop at nothing to screw those of us who have very little. This point needs to be mad to the public at large.

May. 23 2013 01:37 PM

Becky: I severed the voice portion of my land line in 2004. After my Grandma learned to dial my cell phone, I had no reason to keep a method of communication used only by scams, charities, etc.

May. 23 2013 01:36 PM
The Truth from Becky

I had one just for my fax machine until I went wireless and started using, otherwise I don't miss it, it still has a dial tone but you can call 911 only.

May. 23 2013 01:34 PM
The Truth from Becky

No land line! We can take a quick poll here....anyone here using a landline?

May. 23 2013 01:32 PM

I'm divided, because I still rely on my DSL due to the abysmal high speed internet options available to me (in Brooklyn!). However, if this helps to discourage the telecommunications oligopoly from trying to push land lines on new customers via "triple play" packages, it would be interesting to see if it resulted in some kind of change.

Speaking of which, whatever happened to the proposal of NYC to build a backup infrastructure in the event of another disaster so we don't have to depend upon private corporations?

May. 23 2013 01:30 PM
Fire Island Resident from Ocean Beach NY

We rely on Verizon for both land lines and DSL (internet)
Withdrawing DLS services leaves us without a reasonable (including reasonably priced) internet service
Offering services is lesser served areas is important.
Incidentally, were Verizon to offer FIOS in Fire Island, I would expect most would abandon satellite TV and subscribe to Verizon.

May. 23 2013 01:29 PM
The Truth from Becky

His terrible azz connection is reason enough to keep the "copper wires"! What service is he using, the cutting ot makes me wanna scream!

May. 23 2013 01:28 PM
Steve from Rockville Centre, NY

The copper land line is of such limited use, to so few people, that we must face reality. Yes, it works during a power outage, but so do cell phones. And usually copper lines are cut during storms, along with the power lines.
Verizon is strapped with a copper network which has fewer and fewer customers and a huge energy footprint which can't be reduced at the same rate at which landline customers are lost.
Time to move on.

May. 23 2013 01:23 PM
er-nay from Lonelyville, Fire Island

This is an attempt by Verizon to bypass the unions and connect to the customer directly. "VoiceLink" is nothing more than a cell phone in a box disguised as a landline. Currently, a fiber optic line runs down the middle of the island but the company figures that it would be too expensive to offer it (FIOS) to customers.

Obviously, in today's communication landscape they have a legitimate argument (large population of seasonal residents), but if they are successful at offering this on Fire Island, it will set the precedent to do the same wherever they feel it is too cumbersome or expensive to maintain their service. Will LIPA be next?

Luckily, my phone (and DSL) still work on Fire Island, but there will be no other options once that goes down.

May. 23 2013 01:00 PM

Verizon has opened it's copper lines to illegal telemarketing phone calls. I say this because no sooner had I switched from another cable company to Verizon, my landline, registered with the National Don't Call Registry, began to ring with calls from the "whoever's on the line, phone us immediately or your credit card will be cancelled" and the "you have won a free trip for the family to Mafia World in Las Vegas" crowds. I know Verizon has been harassing the FCC for a decade for permission to drop it's copper wires, but I have to believe this illegal activity is aimed at consumers. Like me. Like you. Shame on them.

May. 23 2013 12:24 PM
fuva from harlemworld

In a power outage, copper wires will retain power most of the time. This has allowed for wired landline service, in emergencies, when cell and wireless service failed. Will this critical safety mechanism be eliminated by the new technology?

May. 23 2013 10:58 AM

Hardwired phones must stay part of the Verizon's Universal Service responsibility!!! There's no need for everybody to be exposed to the open radiation of cell phones & the cell towers in their apartments.


May. 23 2013 10:58 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.