Verizon's copper-to-fiber transition faces District of Columbia PSC investigation

Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) ongoing copper-to-fiber migration in the District of Columbia is now the subject of a Public Service Commission (PSC) investigation on how it will affect local consumers and businesses.

The PSC plans to hold a two-day evidentiary hearing related to the use of Verizon's existing copper network plant to deliver telecom services and its plans to transition customers' services, including traditional POTS voice, from copper facilities to fiber facilities.

In its order, the PSC said it "applauds the introduction of new technologies for telecommunications in both the regulated market and in the competitive unregulated market.

The regulator added: "We also recognize that as this transition is made from copper-based facilities to fiber-based facilities, we have an obligation to make certain that the core values of the copper-based technology era, public safety, universal service, competition and consumer protection, endure."

This order stems from the procedural schedule for the remainder of formal case No. 1102, the "Investigation into Verizon DC's continued use of its copper infrastructure for the provision of telecommunications services and whether, and under what circumstances, the Company plans to transition customers from the telecommunications services provided over copper facilities to telecommunications services provided over fiber facilities."   

Washington, D.C., is just one of several states where the telco is proceeding with its copper-to-fiber migration strategy--one that's faced criticism from various industry groups that maintain it could cause harm to consumers.

At the end of May, the telco said it was migrating customers in two wire centers in Ocean View, Va., and Belle Harbor, N.Y.--which cover over 15,000 homes--to fiber. In countering critics' concerns, Verizon said at the time that many of the customers served from these centers either moved to Verizon's fiber-based FiOS services or abandoned their POTS service for a cable operator or VoIP competitor.

Besides these two wiring centers, the telco is moving ahead with plans to replace the copper wire damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2013 with fiber on New York's Fire Island. In June, Verizon got N.Y. PUC permission to complete copper-to-fiber transition on Fire Island.

While Verizon won't release its earnings until July 22, the telco reported that in the first quarter that it migrated 78,000 of what it calls "chronic" copper customers to fiber, a move that it says enables it to upsell existing customers' enhanced services and reduce maintenance costs.

For more:
- see this post
- and the PSC's case file

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