As D.C. City Council Buckles to Verizon Pressure, Unions and Community Groups say “Not Yet!”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASErnrnContact:rnRuth Castel-Branco, DC Jobs with Justice, 202.489.2273rnrnJanuary 22, 2008rnrnAs D.C. City Council Buckles to Verizon Pressure, Unions and Community Groups say “Not Yet!”rnrnrnWASHINGTON, DC – As the D.C. City Council prepares to vote on the “Telecommunications Competition Amendment Act of 2007” this February 5th, unions and community groups voice outrage over what they consider to be a preemptive amendment. The bill will amend the previous Telecommunications Acts passed in 1914 and 1996 to exempt Voice Over Internet Protocol service (VOIP) from regulation in the District of Columbia.rnrn”This bill is not in the best interest of the citizens of D.C. and passing it will have disastrous consequences on both the quality of service and jobs available to working families in the city,” said Mackenzie Baris, coordinator of DC Jobs with Justice. “By giving up its right to regulate a new technology that may develop and expand in unexpected ways, the City Council is shirking off its responsibility to protect consumers. It makes no sense.”rnrnCritics of the bill also point out that VOIP providers have demonstrated that they are not able to meet existing service quality standards for regulated phone and Internet services. “Between 2001 and 2006 there was a 70% increase in Verizon’s out-of-service intervals. During the same period, complaints have risen 200%,” explained CWA Local 2336 President, Jim Pappas. Mr. Pappas predicts that problems will only get worse as Verizon abandons its old copper lines in D.C. so it can focus energy and resources on building new fiber optic cable in the suburbs. “It’s like changing from an old wreck of a car to a new one. You might be willing to keep the old wreck patched together but once the decision is made to buy a new car, how much are you willing to do to keep the old one running?” Verizon’s VOIP service in DC will run over the same copper wires that carry the company’s phone and Internet services.rnrnBut CWA Local 2336 Vice-President Claudia Cole mentions a second reason for Verizon’s poor performance: “Verizon has moved over a third of its jobs out of the district. This has left Verizon without the capacity to adequately service all of its customers and do the necessary preventative maintenance on its lines. My members tell us that many customers have service trouble every time it rains and the troubles end up getting left so long that the sun dries out the cable and the problems disappear on their own – at least until the next rain.”rnrnThe Connect-DC coalition is calling on the City Council to take the time to conduct its own investigation into Verizon’s service quality, hold hearings that include all stakeholders in determining the state and condition of Verizon’s plant, facilities and service in D.C, and engage Verizon in a discussion about its plans to invest more human resources and infrastructure in DC. rnrn“The bottom line is that deregulation is premature,” adds Jim Pappas. “If there are no problems with service, availability, pricing or security there will be no regulations passed. The City is buckling to unnecessary pressure from Verizon, by giving up its future ability to protect the citizens of D.C. This is ridiculous. Once out, you will never get these horses back into the barn.“rnrnThe final vote will take place during the Council’s legislative session on February 5th, 2008. Start time: 10am. John A. Wilson Building, 5th Floor Council Chamber.rnrn###rn

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