AG Coakley's Office Advocates for Improved Telephone Service in Western Massachusetts
In briefs filed with the department late last week, the AG's Office recommended several specific proposals to ensure customers throughout Western Massachusetts have reliable local telephone service.
"Western Massachusetts depends on reliable dial tone service because this service remains the only communications link for many residents and businesses," said AG Coakley. "While Verizon has begun to address the service quality problems in Western Massachusetts, we urge the department to require a concrete plan for addressing infrastructure deficiencies and stronger measurements and penalties to ensure continued improvement of this vital communication service."
As part of its investigation, the department held public hearings in 2009 and 2010 in Greenfield, Florence, Pittsfield, Chester, and Northampton. During these hearings, members of the public expressed concerns about: non-functioning dial tone lines; excessive static on telephone lines; repeated out-of-service and service-affecting problems; and delays in the repair of faulty dial tone lines. During the evidentiary phase of the department's investigations, the AG's Office presented evidence and analysis of a higher than average number of "trouble reports" or customer complaints in wire centers in Western Massachusetts and specific issues caused by infrastructure that is open and exposed to the elements. Evidence presented in the case also showed that Verizon is slow to respond to "trouble reports." Evidence also found that Verizon took longer to install lines than it did just four years ago. In addition, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2324 also presented evidence showing the increased challenge of maintaining thousands of miles of telephone lines with fewer resources.
While the evidence in the case also demonstrated that Verizon has taken several steps to improve service quality in Western Massachusetts over the past year, the AG's Office recommended several specific proposals to ensure that this progress continues and consumers throughout Western Massachusetts have reliable local telephone service. Those recommendations include:
- Requiring Verizon to improve the condition of its telephone network, particularly related to 31 "wire centers" that have the most problems by October 31, 2010;
- Requiring annual reports by Verizon to ensure a continued focus on maintaining and improving its telephone network;
- Requiring an independent audit of the condition of the network and resources that Verizon MA allocates; and
- Direct Verizon to provide more detail in the information in its service quality reporting, including specific reporting on the Western Massachusetts Region.
In Massachusetts, Verizon MA is an incumbent local exchange carrier with carrier of last resort responsibilities and therefore is required to provide reliable telephone service in most parts of the state, including Western Massachusetts.
The AG is the Commonwealth's Ratepayer Advocate and plays an important role in ensuring telecommunications service quality by representing consumers in matters involving the delivery and costs of basic telephone service before state and federal regulators.