VERIZON SETTLEMENT HOODWINKS DC RESIDENTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASErnrnContact:rnRuth Castel-Branco, DC Jobs with Justice, 202.489.2273rnrnMarch 13, 2008rnrnWASHINGTON, DC – On March 5, the DC Office of People’s Counsel reached a Price Cap Settlement with the phone and Internet company, Verizon. While the OPC touts this Settlement as an important step towards ensuring consumer protection standards in the District, unions, community groups and quality-of-service advocates are concerned over what they consider to be a substandard agreement with false solutions to serious quality of service complaints.rnrn“The stipulations in this Settlement provide DC the sleeves out of Verizon’s vest in correcting the problems of the city’s phone system,” said Jim Pappas, President of Local 2336 of the Communications Workers of America which represents Verizon employees. “The fundamental cause of poor phone service in the District is the lack of commitment and resources to the copper telephone network, not poor training,” rnrnThree out of the 15 Settlement conditions relate to training customer service and technical personnel–conditions which according to Pappas don’t get at the root of the problem. “Verizon’s systematic failure to meet [quality of service] standards over consecutive years is the result of continuous divestment from the city and a failure by government agencies to hold them accountable. In Maryland, for example, the Public Service Commission pushed Verizon to actually commit to increasing material investment.”rnrnQuality-of-service advocates in the District also expressed concern over the precedent such a diluted Settlement may set for future agreements negotiated between city agencies and private companies. “The City Council is already scratching Verizon’s back by deregulating internet-based phone service, despite the fact that all evidence shows that Verizon can’t even meet quality of service standards for its regulated services,” said Ruth Castel-Branco, organizer with DC Jobs with Justice. rn“Slow internet speeds, chronic static on the lines, billing problems–resident after resident testified to these issues during the recent Quality of Service hearings for regulated utilities,” added Castel-Branco. “City agencies have the responsibility to ensure that the public has safe, equal, reliable, quality access to utility services. It’s time to put the govern back into government.” rnrnThe Verizon Price Cap Settlement is currently before the Public Service Commission for approval and should go into effect in May. Unions, community groups and quality-of-service advocates hope that the city will include the following stipulations in a final agreement: rn1. That Verizon build Fiber Optic Service (FiOS) in all parts of the city by the end of 2008. rn rn2. That Verizon rebuild and maintain its existing copper telephone network for all DC residents and businesses. rnrn3. That Verizon employ DC residents in DC facilities to build FiOS and sustain existing infrastructure. Over the last 3 years Verizon has moved a third of its jobs out of the District.rnrn###rnrn

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