Verizon plan for deregulating phone service raises ire in NJ

A negotiated agreement that would allow Verizon Communications to deregulate basic phone service in New Jersey is coming in for criticism.Evelyn Liebman, the associate state director for AARP New Jersey, calls it a “backroom deal” that will reduce the quality of service and increase costs for millions of New Jersey residents.

“The deal that we’ve seen would minimally hike prices by as much as 36 percent in the first five years, and then, after that, the sky is the limit — if the phones are there at all,” she said Thursday.

Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski denies the company is trying to eliminate basic copper landline phone services.

“Verizon has invested millions of dollars in its infrastructure, and it makes absolutely no sense for a company to walk away from the investment it has made in its infrastructure in New Jersey,” he said.

But New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel director Stefanie Brand disputes Verizon’s claim.

“They certainly are walking away from it in the towns where the system was damaged in Hurricane Sandy,” she said. “They’ve petitioned to not have to rebuild those systems. They’re saying that they’re going to replace it with wireless service.”

Brand hopes the BPU will reject the agreement.

“I hope that the outpouring of comments from the public will cause the board to take a look at this more closely,” she said. “If not, hopefully the courts will.”

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