Verizon Blasts AARP For 'Over-The-Top, The-Sky-Is-Falling Rhetoric'

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The AARP wants New Jersey regulators to investigate Verizon’s plan not to bring wired phone lines back to one shore town badly battered by superstorm Sandy.

The group made the request Monday to the state Board of Public Utilities.

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“The New Jersey coast has been battered enough. The last thing we need is second-class phone service at the shore,” AARP lobbyist Douglas Johnston said in a statement. He added that not bringing landlines back to Mantoloking could “further the gap between the telecommunications haves and have-nots.”

“It doesn’t support medical alert devices,” AARP New York spokesman Bill Ferris told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.

The phone company is offering customers in the wealthy barrier-island town of grand vacation homes only its Voice Link service, which connects traditional landline phones to a wireless network.

Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski said Sandy damaged the old copper telephone wire network in the community beyond repair. He said the company does not intend to rebuild the lines or bring in a fiber-optic cable system.

“This is typical over-the-top, the-sky-is-falling rhetoric from the AARP,” he said. “Verizon’s goal is to provide our customers with the best service, with the best technology.”

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Gierczynski said Mantoloking is the only New Jersey shore community where the company is taking that approach, though it’s similar to what Verizon is doing on New York’s Fire Island.

The AARP objects because the technology Verizon is using cannot transfer data, so it’s not compatible with Internet service, fax machines, security systems or medical devices that use phone lines. Giercynski said those capabilities are planned for the future.

He said that about 100 customers from among the 850 potential ones in Mantoloking are using the new wireless service, while others are using cellphones or a cable company’s voice service.

For now, AARP wants public utilities officials in New York and New Jersey to look into whether Voice Link works well enough to replace landlines.

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