City Council Buckles to Verizon, We Say “Not Yet!”

Cortez_Avery-_CWA_Local_2336_0.jpgLast Saturday DC JwJ and CWA Local 2336 members ventured into the cold morning, equipped with clipboards and pens, surveys and signs, ready to record the stories of those tormented by Verizon’s declining quality of service. The surveys, which are online at www.connect-dc.org, come at a time when the DC City Council looks like it’s going to buckle to pressure from Verizon to deregulate Voice Over Internet Protocol service (VOIP) in the District of Columbia. The vote will be on February 5th.rnrnAs we stood outside supermarkets and metro stations, people came to us to tell their stories. rnQ: During the past year, have you experienced any of the following problems? Loss of phone service?rn “Yes, 5 times this year.” “Twice so far.” “None so far, but the year’s not over yet.”rnrnQ: What is the longest period of time you have been without service?rn“Three days.” “More than a week.” “At least 24 hours.”rnrnAnd the anecdotes just kept flowing:rn“During bad weather I always experience static. Sometimes even loss of phone service.”rn“I can’t even get Verizon in my neighborhood. I had to go to Comcast.”rn“My phone was down for 5 days and a family member had just passed away so I had to buy a phone card to help plan the funeral arrangements.”rn“They were overcharging phone bills with no explanation as to why.”rn“There’s been a problem with the answering machine which they have not been able to resolve since Thanksgiving, and every time I call customer service it takes forever.”rnOthers, mistaking us for Verizon representatives called out “I dumped you once, I ain’t coming back!” rnrnClearly Verizon, the main VOIP provider, is not able to meet existing service quality standards for regulated phone and Internet services. In fact between 2001 and 2006 there was a 70% increase in Verizon’s out-of-service intervals. During the same period, complaints rose 200%. Jim Pappas of CWA Local 2336 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.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. We need every bit of help to convince council members that companies cannot be trusted to regulate themselves! If you have had problems with Verizon in the past, take our on-line survey at www.connect-dc.org.rnrnHaven’t testified before and feel a little nervous? No worries. In collaboration with DC ACORN and the Fair Budget Coalition, DC Jobs with Justice will be organizing a FREE workshop to help you prepare your testimony for the hearings. Saturday, Feb. 2nd at 2:30pm at St. James Episcopal Church, 222 8th St, NE. RSVP to rcastel@dclabor.org rnrnThe hearings are being held by Councilmember Mary Cheh and the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs and will take place on Thursday, February 7, 10:00 a.m., in the fifth floor council chambers and on Saturday, February 9, at 11:00 a.m., in room 412. John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. You can testify about problems with any DC utilities, including Pepco, Washington Gas, Comcast, and Verizon.

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