AT&T technicians represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union in California and Nevada say that the spike in phone and internet outages across California and Nevada is the result of aging infrastructure that was “exacerbated” by the recent snowstorms in each state.
CWA District 9, which represents 17,000 telecom technicians in California, Nevada and Hawaii, said that service calls in both states rose 350% over the past weekend.
The union added that it expects the number of calls to grow as the storm continues through Thursday.
Members of CWA District 9, a number of whom are AT&T workers, said they have continued to raise concerns about the telco’s aging wireline infrastructure.
After the California Public Utility Commission conducted an investigation in 2011, CWA members said they presented evidence of systemic service issues stemming from what they claim is AT&T’s lack of investment in its landline network.
A more recent survey revealed that AT&T missed the regulator’s standard for 24-hour restoration of out-of-service troubles between January 2014 and June 2016.
Over the past year, CWA members said they spotlighted concerns about call completion in rural communities, as well as the inadequate staffing that threatens service restoration in these areas.
“For years, we’ve been telling AT&T executives about widespread infrastructure problems and saying the company needs to invest in the basic landline services our customers need before it’s too late,” said maintenance slicer Keith Mitchell, who is one of many technicians working in San Diego County to restore phone and internet services, in a release. “But AT&T chose to ignore us and the needs of our customers, and now the company is forcing us to work in dangerous conditions to clean up their avoidable mess.”
However, AT&T refutes the union’s claims and says it has continued to make necessary upgrades in its California networks.
“Our first priority is serving our customers and to that end we invested more than $7.25 billion in our California wireless and wired networks in the past three years,” said Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, in an e-mail to FierceTelecom. “Ongoing extreme weather conditions and the heaviest rain in a decade have created an unusually high level of network repair work, which we are addressing by bringing in additional technicians from other parts of the country and through local technicians working overtime.”
Richter added that “we’ll do everything we can to safely address the increased work load until the extreme weather passes and the situation returns to normal.”
Interestingly, the CWA’s report comes as AT&T and the union continue to negotiate a new labor contract that covers nearly 16,000 employees in California and Nevada.
After not being able to reach an agreement before the expiration date of the West Region wireline contract, CWA and AT&T agreed to continue negotiations for a new contract.