State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is seeking action against Verizon New York over mounting complaints of poor repair service for millions of its land-based telephone customers in New York.
Schneiderman said Thursday the state's largest provider of traditional telephone service is shortchanging is customers, while focusing on the more lucrative wireless cellphone market that's drawing thousands of new customers daily as they hang up land-line phones.
He told the state Public Service Commission that the percentage of customers without service for more than 24 hours has increased and the commission has allowed Verizon to provide poor service to 92 percent of its customers.
"Verizon customers deserve the high-quality service they've been promised," Schneiderman told The Associated Press.
The PSC hit Verizon with a $400,000 penalty in March for similar concerns, accusing the company of "apparent intentional" reduction in its repair work force in September before a backlog of repairs was completed. Verizon didn't agree with the commission's conclusion, but paid the penalty to, as it said, look forward.
"The goals of Verizon and the attorney general are the same — to provide the best, most reliable telecommunications services for New Yorkers," said Verizon spokesman John Bonomo. He said the company would submit its comments to the commission after it reviews the attorney general's filing.
For example, he said Verizon invested $1.5 billion in land line service in 2011 for infrastructure, maintenance, repair and expansion of copper and fiber lines. That's about five times the amount spent on wireless, he said.
He also said that as a monthly average, 98 percent of customers don't have service problems. Bonomo also said the company lost more than half its landline accounts over the last 10 years, a major factor in job reductions.
Bonomo said the $400,000 penalty paid in March was a direct result of a strike by the Communications Workers of America union in August and substantial, almost unprecedented, damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in late summer.
He said Verizon is doing "exceedingly well" so far this year.
"CWA members know from first-hand experience that Verizon is failing to invest in the people and equipment necessary to ensure that over 4 million New York phone consumers are receiving reliable, high-quality phone service, and the PSC has defaulted on its responsibility to require Verizon to meet its obligations to the public," the union stated. "The cuts in the workforce are too deep, and the refusal to refurbish aging infrastructure too pervasive, for Verizon to deliver good service to its customers."