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MD People’s Counsel calls for suspension of Verizon copper retirement notices

The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) filed a petition with the state Public Service Commission (PSC) calling for an investigation – and suspension – of Verizon copper retirement notices. Verizon has been sending copper retirement letters to customers in five Maryland communities, giving notice of plans to shut down its copper network, with an offer to move the customer onto fiber at no cost. FCC rules require advance notice of copper retirement of 90 days for retail and 180 days for wholesale customers.

After receiving numerous complaints, the MD OPC, an independent government agency that represents the state’s public utility customers, filed its petitionThe petition states that Verizon’s copper retirement notices do not comply with the FCC advance notice rules, contain inaccurate and misleading information, disregard Maryland customer protection rules, and may actually require the filing of a more stringent service discontinuance application.

Specifically, the petition states that Verizon has notified some customers the copper-to-fiber migration will take place as early as Dec. 14, 2016 – before the FCC’s 90 day (retail) and 180 day (wholesale) customer advance notice requirements kick in. Moreover, Verizon filed notice with the FCC that these customers’ copper service would end Sept. 2017 – a full ten months after the date on the customer’s letter. To add to the confusion, Verizon sent some customers multiple letters with different dates for the copper shutdown: one letter said Dec. 14, 2016 and the other to the same customer said Sept. 15, 2017.

The People’s Counsel petition claims that Verizon’s copper retirement letters mislead customers with wrong information. The Verizon letter incorrectly states that fiber voice is “the same” as copper voice service, whereas fiber service requires battery back-up when commercial power goes out. Further, the petition states that Verizon’s website tells customers the copper shutdown is mandatory, rather than a Verizon business decision. The petition references a pending CWA petition (link) for investigation of Verizon’s de facto abandonment of its copper plant in Maryland, raising the possibility that Verizon should be subject to a more stringent FCC and PSC review of its copper retirement plans.

Given these serious issues with Verizon’s copper retirement notices, the MD OPC requested the PSC suspend Verizon’s notices and investigate all of Verizon’s copper retirement notices.

Verizon has filed numerous copper retirement notices for hundreds of communities throughout its East Coast wireline footprint at the Federal Communications Commissioner. These can be viewed here. Are you affected?

In New Jersey, the state consumer advocate, the the NJ Division of Rate Counsel, asked NJ state regulators Verizon’s copper-to-fiber migration of customers in the state.

In Maryland, consumers with concerns about copper-to-fiber migration can contact the Office of People’s Counsel at (800) 207-4055.

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