New York AG says PSC should investigate Verizon, state's telecom industry

Eric Schneiderman, New York's attorney general, has written a letter to the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) asking the state regulator to investigate Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and look at how the deregulation of the New York telecom market is impacting businesses and consumers.

In a series of public hearings the NYPSC held in various locations throughout the state, a number of local politicians and community members talked about their telecommunications experience, particularly with Verizon. One of the common themes heard during these events was that Verizon was abandoning its traditional landline network while refusing to build FiOS in their cities.

Schneiderman said in his letter that public hearings and the NYPSC's report should be just the first step in the process of getting a better understanding of Verizon and the state's telecom market.

He has asked that a formal proceeding be held in front of an administrative judge to enable evidence-gathering, allow cross-examination and counter-evidence, and conclude with a final order or decision by the PSC.

In addition, Schneiderman said that the proceeding could develop facts on a number of issues raised at the hearings, such as whether there is adequate competition for broadband service throughout the various regions of New York State, and whether there are any areas that are still essentially cable monopolies; whether telecommunications companies are making honest representations about infrastructure buildout; whether consumers are satisfied with the various voice service options available to New York consumers; and whether Verizon is adequately upgrading or repairing its copper wire infrastructure, critical for New Yorkers who rely solely on landline service in the absence of other voice options.

Verizon has come under fire in the New York City market where city leaders and regulators have charged that the telco has not met its buildout goals for FiOS. 

An audit issued by New York City's Dept. of Information Technology and Telecommunications found that Verizon failed to deliver on its promise to provide fiber-optic service throughout the city by 2014.

The telco disputed the audit's claims, which it said were based on erroneous information and incorrect interpretations of the company's franchise deal that was signed with the city in 2008 that allowed it to deploy FiOS throughout the city.

At that time, the telco said it had met its requirement to install fiber optics through all five boroughs in New York City, adding that the company had invested $3.5 billion in deploying FiOS in New York City and that it wants to get more residents on its service. 

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, which is in the process of negotiating a new labor contract with the service provider, has also been critical of Verizon's wireline network performance.

In June, the CWA filed seven Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Each FOIA request asked for information regarding Verizon's upkeep and maintenance of older landline systems. 

The union said that the telco is not repairing its damaged copper lines in the Northeast, but is instead driving customers to its wireless Voice Link home phone service.

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