Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is going replace the wireline network infrastructure destroyed by last fall's Hurricane Sandy on New York's Fire Island with its Fiber to the Home (FTTH)-based FiOS service after its initial decision to not replace the wires incited outrage from residents, unions and regulators.
Instead of replacing the damaged wires, the telco has been offering its wireless-based Voice Link voice service option, which currently serves about 600 customers.
Residents said in comments sent to New York Public Service Commission and the FCC that unlike the traditional copper-based network they had before Hurricane Sandy hit, Voice Link delivered "spotty service" during emergencies and could not support Internet service or support fax machines and alarms.
John Bonomo, director of media relations for Verizon's Northeast area, told FierceTelecom that their decision to rewire the Western part of Fire Island with fiber was that customers told them they wanted a more reliable Internet connection.
"The driver is and was the customer comments in a town hall forum held by two local politicians and the PSC...they had needs that were more than plain old voice and it come out loud and clear to use that one of their needs is Internet," he said.
Bonomo added that after examining various options to deliver Internet services, they came to the realization that environmental issues made deploying new copper unfeasible.
"Putting copper back in just was not a practical measure for us to take at this point," he said. "It has certain limitations and mostly the fact that you're installing it at a beach: the ground there is saturated and salt water and in some cases where we have aerial plant the salt air corrodes."
Current customers that reside on the western side of the island will have three options: keep their Voice Link service, get a fiber-based voice service, or bundle FiOS Internet and voice (without FiOS TV). Residents will be able to get satellite TV service.
Customers that opt for the FiOS dual play bundle that includes digital voice will get more advanced features than can be provided on a traditional landline phone.
Set to start construction sometime this October, Bonomo said that the buildout will be completed by the beginning of next summer.
Verizon's decision was lauded by Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, one of the key critics of Voice Link service.
"I am extremely pleased that Verizon has backed off its attempt to abandon landline telephone service on Western Fire Island," Schneiderman said in a statement. "It's a victory for New Yorkers who were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and my office will continue to oppose Verizon's efforts to substitute landlines with lesser services."
- Long Island Newsday has this article
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Updated article on Sept. 11 with quotes from Verizon spokesman John Bonomo.