New Jersey Communities Claim Verizon Harms Consumers by Abandoning Old Infrastructure

December 7, 2015

verizonSixteen cities and towns in New Jersey petitioned the state Board of Public Utilities claiming that Verizon is harming consumers in the state by neglecting its old copper wire telephone network and by delaying its rollout of broadband facilities in much of the state.  The communities, most located in the southern part of New Jersey, asked the Board to investigate Verizon’s conduct.

The New Jersey communities allege that Verizon is no longer effectively maintaining its original telephone network infrastructure.  Instead, they claim that the company now focuses its efforts and resources on developing and supporting its fiber-based network.  According to the communities involved in this action, Verizon’s neglect of its basic copper wire system has resulted in significantly degraded service quality for many New Jersey consumers.

The communities also claim that Verizon’s rollout of fiber-based broadband services in their regions has been extremely slow.  Some of the communities involved in this action contend that their regions are not even included in Verizon’s broadband plans.  The communities contend that they are not being effectively integrated into Verizon’s fiber network and their current copper wire network is falling into disrepair.

Verizon disputes the claims of the communities.  The company contends that it continues to invest substantial resources in support of maintenance of its established copper wire infrastructure, even as it invests in new broadband facilities.  Verizon argues that it has not abandoned its old network and that it is moving as rapidly as is reasonable to expand the reach of its new network.

The communities involved in this case want the Board of Public Utilities to investigate Verizon’s conduct with regard both to its maintenance of its old copper wire network and its rate and scope of implementation of its new fiber network.  The communities are asking the Board to take the actions necessary to ensure that all residents of New Jersey have reasonable communications network access.

This dispute highlights one of the most significant challenges associated with the dramatic expansion of broadband networks.  That challenge involves the need to invest the resources and to take the actions necessary to ensure that access to those emerging networks is available to all citizens, not only those who live in more urban or affluent areas.

State utility regulators including the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities play a critical role in the effort to promote universal broadband access.  Utility regulators in all states should actively focus their attention on the issues raised in this New Jersey case.  It is up to those regulators to push service providers to execute rapid and widespread broadband network rollout, while simultaneously continuing to support effectively the existing communications network infrastructure.  The success of efforts to promote universal broadband access will depend substantially on the efforts of state regulatory authorities.