Verizon, it seems, wants out of the money-draining business of offering landline telephone service. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the telecom giant has been petitioning the FCC to let it leave destroyed landline infrastructure as is. Instead of fixing the lines, Verizon wants to offer a service called Verizon Voice Link, which consists of a non-Internet enabled mobile phone tethered to a charger stand. This plan is encountering resistance from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Essentially, Voice Link is a first-generation Nokia-like mobile phone modded to physically resemble a cordless household phone. It also has significantly worse reception than a landline phone, is incompatible with alarm security systems, and incompatible with stores' credit card uplinks (although they do offer free nationwide calling). Verizon is trying to roll out the faux-landline phones in outlying areas like New York's Fire Island, because it will be cheaper for Verizon to exclusively maintain a mobile infrastructure instead of maintaining both mobile and landline service in regions likely to be affected by future weather catastrophes. Voice Link is currently slated for areas where phone service has still not been fully restored post-Sandy.
But the FCC is impeding Verizon's request, due to concerns that Voice Link is not a “reasonable substitute” for landline service. In a statement, consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge stated that “Hundreds of Fire Island residents have already complained that Voice Link provides inferior voice quality and reliability and does not support internet access, medical alerts, security alarms, credit card processing, collect calls and certain calling card services. Until the FCC has ensured that these customers will not continue to be harmed by the limitations of Voice Link, it cannot find that Voice Link is equivalent to the wireline network users have counted on for decades."
Verizon, for its part, argues that Voice Link will return telephone service to the communities worst hit by Sandy more quickly than rebuilding landlines. While Verizon's request is restricted to isolated portions of Long Island and New Jersey, the FCC expressed strongly worded concerns about the discontinuing of landline telephone service anywhere.
[Image: Flickr user Kim Carpenter]