Opinion: Verizon has an obligation to maintain lifelines for older New Jerseyans

August 24, 2014 at 12:35 PM

PRINCETON, NJ - Remember the shell game? That game was all about misdirection. Fooling you to believe that the pea was in one place when it really was in another.

Well, when it comes to discussion about the ongoing importance of reliable, affordable phone service, some folks are looking to play a similar game of misdirection, trying to get New Jersey lawmakers to ignore the plainly stated facts surrounding the inadequacies of fixed wireless service that is being forced upon many New Jersey consumers.

The fact is, Verizon is required by state law to make available basic, affordable, reliable, and regulated service. Verizon’s landline phone service has been there for us for years now, and it’s all many older New Jerseyans know…or want.

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Thousands of older New Jersey residents depend on their landline for a myriad of reasons, including health and safety. Many have medical monitoring systems that just will not work without a reliable, traditional landline. Many have home security systems that depend on that same landline. And many suffered through Superstorm Sandy with only one reliable connection to the outside world. One lone beacon of light, when power was out and cell towers were down, shining through the darkness of isolation that pervaded the worst areas of the state following the storm. That was their landline telephone. Their lifeline.

Look, no one is saying that Verizon shouldn’t have the right to market VoiceLink as an optional service to anyone to whom it wishes. Many people have cell phones that use the same networks that VoiceLink relies on (remember those things that didn’t work for days following Sandy?). But it must be just that- an optional service. It does not adequately meet Verizon’s obligation to provide reliable, affordable service to its customers.

It’s time for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and our elected officials to do the right thing for the residents of New Jersey and hold Verizon accountable when it comes to fulfilling its statutory obligations, just as took place in New York when Verizon tried to saddle its Fire Island customers with VoiceLink as its only offering there. New York state officials had the backs of Fire Island residents, and eventually, Verizon relented. Why don’t New Jersey’s most powerful leaders have OUR backs?

AARP does not oppose progress or customer choice. We understand that someday, a technology will come along that will be more cost effective to maintain, more affordable for consumers, and will represent a step forward in innovation and reliability. We eagerly await that day and urge New Jersey policymakers to play an active role in getting us there.  Until then, reliable, affordable phone service remains a necessity for many New Jersey consumers. To allow Verizon to step away from its service obligation could be a step toward isolation, and away from help, for those who depend on their phone service most.


Jeff Abramo

Communications Director

AARP New Jersey

101 Rockingham Row, Forrestal Village

Princeton, NJ 08540

(E) jabramo@aarp.org    

(P) 609.452.3908     

(C) 609.216.6345              

(F) 609.987.4634

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