Verizon retires more legacy assets in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has taken another step in its copper retirement program, announcing in an FCC filing that it is replacing copper facilities with FTTH in its Washington Street central office (CO) in Providence, R.I.

Similar to other markets where it has retired copper facilities, the service provider will initially provide traditional POTS (plain old telephone service) over the new fiber facilities.

"Upon completion, Verizon will provide services over its fiber optic network," Verizon said in an FCC filing. "The majority of customers served by copper at these locations purchase "plain old telephone service."

After transitioning this CO to fiber, Verizon will continue to offer customers the same voice service over fiber at what it said will be "the same or better price as they received on copper facilities, with no change in the underlying features and functionalities in their service."

Verizon noted that if any existing customers that currently purchase certain DS0 services that are incompatible or unavailable over fiber it will work with those customers to provide them with an alternative service.

The telco has continued to make progress in meeting copper-to-fiber migration goals for 2015. It set a goal to convert a total of 200,000 customers from copper to fiber by the end of the year.

Although migrating copper customers to fiber can provide various benefits, including lower maintenance costs and the potential foundation to migrate customers to FTTH services, Verizon's copper retirement and maintenance practices have been under fire.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, which is in the process of negotiating a new contract for their wireline workforce that it has engaged in a practice known as de facto copper retirement where a telco would let its aging copper plant, deteriorate to the point where it would become necessary to replace the copper with fiber. It asked the FCC to not include new requirements addressing the issue in its technology transition plans. 

Verizon has dismissed the CWA's claims as nothing more than an "agenda-driven attempt by the union to try and divert attention from our on-going contract negotiations." The telco has repeatedly said that it continues to make necessary investments to maintain its copper network facilities.

But copper retirement is just one part of Verizon's TDM to IP transition process.

The service provider said in a separate FCC filing is also going to retire one of its legacy GTD-5 switches in Pennsylvania.

Located at its Robert Street & Foster Street CO in Nanty Glo, Pa., the service provider will migrate traffic to the GTD-5 switch (JHTWPAXJDS0) located at 421 Locust Street, Johnstown, Pa.

Retiring voice switches is an important transition for traditional telcos like Verizon.

Unlike computer storage, which has seen prices drop from $1 million per gigabyte in 1960 to to 10 cents in 2010, operational costs to run the PSTN (public switched telephone network) have continued to rise. This is due to a lack of innovation on the electrical and mechanical layer of the network. In particular, the chiller plant technology that cools the COs that house switching equipment has not changed in nearly 100 years.

For more:
- see this FCC filing (PDF)
- and this FCC filing (PDF)

Related articles:
Verizon transfers group of Falls Church, Va. copper customers to fiber
Verizon transitions more New York City wireline customers from copper to fiber
Verizon sees value in transforming network to IP, fiber, but conversion challenges remain
Verizon's Stratton sees 'host' of opportunities to improve wireline, wireless operations

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