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Communications / Internet / Municipal government

Verizon’s fiber upgrades are causing confusion, says Maryland People’s Counsel

The telecom company is planning to retire copper wires in some areas of Maryland, but the watchdog says notices informing consumers are misleading.

Can Baltimore get better broadband access? (Photo by Flickr user Arild Nybø, used under a Creative Commons license)

Verizon’s move to upgrade the wiring used in its home-phone systems is drawing the ire of the Maryland People’s Counsel.
The telecom company is issuing notices to customers saying it plans to upgrade from copper wire to fiberoptic cable for home-phone use in areas including Towson, Columbia and Glen Burnie, as well as Rockville and Bethesda. There are no plans to bring fiber to Baltimore city.
The Office of the People’s Counsel reported multiple complaints about the letters, stating that the letters are misleading. In response, People’s Counsel Paula Carmody filed complaints about the plans with the state’s Public Service Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. The filing with the FCC calls for an investigation into Verizon’s plans, and suspension of the notices until the investigation is complete.
In a statement, a Verizon spokesman said the company plans to continue replacing the copper wires, and is following FCC rules governing the replacement.
“Customers will continue to receive the same services at the same prices, terms, and conditions as they do now, just over our more reliable fiber network,” the statement said.
The filings state that Verizon’s letters specify different dates that the upgrades will be performed, ranging from December 2016 to September 2017.
Here’s one place where there could be confusion: A letter citing the December 2016 date cited by the People’s Counsel says that service will be discontinued if an appointment is not scheduled by that time.
The company said the 2017 date is the time when the copper service will no longer be available. The December 2016 date is the deadline for customers to contact Verizon.
The People’s Counsel also alleges that the letters do not make it clear that some devices may be incompatible with fiber upgrades, pointing to complaints about “aggressive and often misleading upselling of its fiber-based voice, Internet and TV services.” The company’s internet service is not available on fiber, but Verizon says customers can opt for Fios service.
Verizon provides information about distinctions in an FAQ, but it does not paint a full picture, the People’s Counsel alleges.

Companies: Verizon

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