NY Attorney General files injunction request as Verizon eyes Catskills for its Voice Link service

Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) new Voice Link service may have a continuing fight on its hands as it tries to expand beyond Fire Island, N.Y., and Mantoloking, N.J. The New York Attorney General's office filed a request for an injunction on Wednesday, claiming that the carrier is planning to replace landline service in the Catskills in violation of the Public Service Commission's tariff amendment.

"The Attorney General's office has recently learned that Verizon intends to require customers outside of the Fire Island pilot area seeking to have their wireline service installed accept instead Voice Link service, notwithstanding the Commission's May 16 order," the filing said. Vacation home owners in the Catskills region of New York were being offered Voice Link when they called to restore summertime service, according to the filing, rather than their traditional copper voice service.

Verizon's Tom Maguire, senior vice president of operations support who leads the Voice Link program, disagreed with the AG's filing. "We're not telling people [they] must take that service," he told FierceTelecom, explaining that voice-only customers in certain regions of the country are being offered Voice Link as an option "where copper wasn't getting the job done."

"The official position is we know and understand the rules of engagement related to Voice Link. The tariff amendment with the PSC is specific to Fire Island. Outside of Fire Island, our intention is to offer service as an option."

The filing states that a CWA (Communications Workers of America) representative reported to the AG that Verizon delivered a pallet load of Voice Link devices to its Monticello, N.Y., installation and maintenance center, and had instructed technicians "to provide summer seasonal customers returning to Catskill vacation homes … only Voice Link service."

Maguire said that Voice Link devices are being shipped to several areas for deployment. Besides New York state, parts of Florida, Virginia and New Jersey are slated to receive the service option this summer. He added that seeing the units in a storage facility doesn't mean anything.

"Somebody saw that we were putting these units into one of the garages," he said. "Based on the fact that they see a box on a pallet they get the AG to file something against us? That's kind of bizarre."

Maguire added that Verizon is complying with the PSC's tariff amendment regarding the Fire Island deployment, and that offering Voice Link as an option does not violate any tariff rules.

"We're the ones who reached out to the Commission to talk about what we're doing. It makes absolutely no sense that we would work with the commission to set up rules of engagement and then not abide by those rules."

It hasn't been determined yet when or if the state will approve--or deny--the request for injunction.

For more:
- the New York AG filed this request (.pdf)

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