Verizon refutes claims about Fios battery backup process

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Verizon has found itself in the middle of a battle over Fios battery backup with one of its consumers.

Verizon has found itself in the middle of a battle over Fios battery backup with one of its claiming the telco is placing too much of a burden on customers.

Michael Marcus, Sc.D., F-IEEE, a retired FCC senior executive who worked at the c]]]]]]]]]]ommission for nearly 25 years in both the spectrum policy and enforcement areas, said in a FCC filing that the current backup system is insufficient and could pose issues for consumers trying to make 911 calls.

Marcus was one of the early Fios customers, having service installed at his Cabin John, Maryland, residence in 2004. The original installation included a sealed lead acid battery inside the house for backup power. 

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“In order to check battery condition, one must remove all 12 D cells and one by one hold this plastic strip to both ends,” Marcus said in an FCC filing. “This is an amusing science fair project but does Verizon really think many consumers will do this so that dead batteries are identified in a timely way?  The inevitable consequence of this awkward technology will be consumers trying to use their phone for emergency uses such as E911 calls and discovering their backup power is dead!”

The backup power system installed at Marcus’ house was a CyberShield DBH36D12V UNIT. The "PowerReserve" solution, which uses traditional D-cell batteries to provide about 20+ hours of back-up power for voice service, depending on the model of the Optical Network Terminal at the customer's location.

Marcus said that the Fios installer told him to turn off the switch on the power unit because leaving it on when power was operating would drain the dry cell batteries. Although consumers could leave the switch on, Verizon offers no estimate of what the battery life time is when the battery is left on. This is unlike the automatic switchover that the earlier generation, shorter-battery-life unit had.

“While we support the switchover to noncopper media including both optical fiber and radio technology, sloppy attention to backup power is plainly dangerous,” Marcus said. “In practice, emergency calls during blackouts will be unreliable and home alarm systems with central station coverage will be problematical.”

Verizon disagreed with Marcus’ argument, saying that the unit complies with the FCC’s Battery Backup Order. The service provider pointed out that its “PowerReserve” uses conventional D-cell batteries to provide 24 hours of backup power for voice service.

“Replacing batteries is straightforward and similar to replacement in other common household devices such as a flashlight,” Veizon said in its response filing (PDF). “Verizon also provides customers with a PowerReserve battery tester so that customers can monitor the battery charge level.”

In an earlier filing Verizon made in 2015, the service provider found that as more of its customers migrate over to Fios or it switches copper customers onto a fiber-based voice connection, more customers are increasingly using their cell phones as their voice connection during a power outage.