More than 300 South Jerseyans have complained of shoddy landline telephone and Internet service in a new online survey conducted by Cumberland County.
“They’ve had interruptions to their telephone service — the lack of dial tones, lost calls, static, noise — dropping of Internet service,” said county counsel Ted Baker.
It comes after months of reported issues with phone and Internet service traveling over the aging copper wire infrastructure used by Verizon, the main telecommunications provider in New Jersey.
Last year, 16 municipalities in Cumberland, Salem, Atlantic, and Gloucester counties filed a complaint with the state Board of Public Utilities asking for an investigation into the problems.
Respondents to the recent survey included residents who lived outside of those 16 municipalities, according to Baker.
“It tells me that the problem is not only valid, but it may go deeper and may be more comprehensive than we previously thought,” he said.
Verizon said the number of complaints it receives from residents in that area of South Jersey are lower than the state standard set by the BPU.
“The people they should be calling and telling about that is us,” said Verizon spokesman Ray McConville. “A lot of times we’re not going to be aware that there is a problem if nobody is telling us directly that there is. So they should never hesitate to call us when they’re having a problem, and we will do everything we can to fix it as quickly as possible.”
McConville also denied allegations that Verizon is not keeping up with its copper wire infrastructure in South Jersey, citing the tens of millions of dollars it recently invested there to maintain the system.
“What the towns are doing is, they’re trying to get us to build fiber optics in these areas,” he said, “and they’re doing that by creating a crisis that does not exist.”
Still unconvinced is Stefanie Brand, director of the Division of Rate Counsel, the state agency that advocates on behalf of utility customers.
“I have seen a lot of the forms that people have filled out, and it sounds like it’s been going on for a while,” she said. “I think it has not really changed. Nothing has really changed.”
Baker said the county continues to receive dozens of complaints per week on its website, where the survey is still available. Citing the obvious problem of trying to reach residents with Internet problems through an online survey, he said the county is considering door-to-door canvassing of known affected areas.