Verizon says migrating customers to fiber will provide a better phone service experience

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Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is wasting no time firing back at critics who say its plan to retire copper facilities in Ocean View, Va., and Belle Harbor, N.Y., is going to cause harm to consumers.

The service provider said that customers in these two wire centers--which cover over 15,000 homes--have either moved to Verizon's fiber-based FiOS services or abandoned their POTS service for a cable operator or VoIP competitor.

Today, only 40 area homes remain on the copper lines. According to a series of filings it made with the FCC this month, Verizon said that area's copper wire service will be shut down by Nov. 1.

"Completing the migration to Verizon's more advanced and reliable fiber facilities, and retiring the legacy copper loops and the switches in these wire centers, is not just a logical and efficient step, but it is also an incremental one," wrote Verizon in an FCC filing. "There has been no valid objection to the copper retirement filed by customers living or working in these areas or by providers serving them, and no request for an extension of time made."

Verizon said that the majority of the consumers who have remained on copper-based services in these two wire centers only purchase POTS service, but added that when it retires the copper at these two facilities, there will be no change to the service.  

"There is no change in the underlying features and functionalities in their service: voice mail, collect calling, and other features will continue to work just as they did over copper; customers will continue to be able to use fax machines, medical monitoring devices, and home alarms; and accessibility services – such as relay services used by customers who are deaf or hard of hearing – also will continue to work as before," wrote Verizon. "There will be no change to customers' ability to call 911: public safety answering points will receive the same E911 information as before."

Verizon also struck out at Comptel, a competitive industry association, in a separate filing. Earlier this month, Comptel asked the FCC to suspend copper retirement rules because it claims that the rules are "insufficient to protect the public interest."

"In particular, they only provide for notification that the copper loop will no longer be available for competitive services without ensuring an alternative form of access to last mile facilities," wrote Comptel in an FCC filing. "This creates substantial harm, particularly to small and medium size businesses that rely on competitors to provide the affordable broadband services they need to run and grow their business. We proposed that the Commission could suspend its copper retirement rules, pending its modification to the rules as described above and in more detail in COMPTEL's April 2 proposed managerial framework."

However, Verizon says that Comptel's request would actually discourage large telcos like itself and AT&T from making investments in next-gen technologies.

"Comptel seeks to unfairly and unlawfully restrict one set of providers' ability to determine the technologies to use to serve their customers, in blanket contradiction to the Commission's already established rules and findings," wrote Verizon in its FCC filing. "Suspending the copper retirement rules would effectively require incumbent LECs – and only incumbent LECs – to continue to maintain redundant or outdated facilities that they do not need to serve their customers."

Regardless of the criticism it faces, Verizon's move to drive customers off of copper to fiber has been a major initiative for the company. It claims the copper to fiber migration enabled it to reduce repair time and maintenance costs.

During the first quarter, the service provider said it migrated 78,000 of what it calls "chronic" copper customers to fiber, a move that it says enables it to upsell customers enhanced service and reduce maintenance costs.

For more:
- see Verizon's blog
- here's Verizon's New York filing
- here's Verizon's copper retirement filing
- and Comptel's filing

Related articles:
Copper retirement, cable wholesale, international expansion and small cells took center stage at COMPTEL Spring 2014
AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier see utility with copper but want flexibility in technology transition
Verizon Q1 FiOS revenue rose 15.5% to $3B, but weather issues slowed installations

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