Verizon faces New Jersey regulator hearings over DSL service performance

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is facing two hearings with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to address problems that a number of residential and business customers have had with its DSL service.

Residents and business owners will air their concerns at two public hearings to be held on Aug. 4 at the Estell Manor Elementary School in Estell Manor at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The hearings are a response to a request made last year to investigate the company's treatment of traditional phone and DSL service in New Jersey communities.

In December, a group of New Jersey 16 municipalities filed a petition with the BPU to prevent Verizon from reducing maintenance of its copper network in favor of fiber or wireless.

Verizon says that the reports that it is abandoning its copper phone lines and service problems in South Jersey are inaccurate, adding that it has invested $100 million in the South Jersey copper network in the last two years.

Verizon's records show that South Jersey service is "consistently better than [the Board of Public Utilities'] minimum standards," said spokesman Ray McConville in a article.

Two local family doctors profiled by, Lori C. Talbot and Christopher T. Ballas, said the slower DSL speeds have affected their practice. The doctors provide medical services to families and migrant farmworkers in Southern New Jersey.

McConville told FierceTelecom in an e-mail that it has "reached out to this customer in the last few days and will be meeting with them again to go over some options they may have with us aside from DSL."

Although Comcast provides service in the area, the cable MSO did not extend its service throughout Bear Neck Road because there are not many homes on that road to justify building out service to that part of the road.

What this means is that Talbot and Ballas can only get Verizon's DSL service, one that the doctors say is too slow to conduct simple day-to-day tasks such as reading e-mail or registering deaths with the Department of Health and Senior Services.

More importantly, the lack of a high-speed broadband connection means the doctors cannot comply with Medicare guidelines for its "Meaningful Use" program of incentives for electronic health records. Their medical office is required to make patient records available through an online portal, but without a reliable broadband connection, Ballas and Talbot can't comply with those guidelines. The pair could face penalties if they don't comply with Medicare's requirements.

Talbot said that they talked with with Verizon officials two years ago to explain their problems with the DSL service, but the doctor's office has not been able to get a resolution to their speed issues.

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This article was updated with additional information from Verizon on July 18.