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PSC may fine Verizon for slow repairs in 2011

By Rick Seltzer

Date:

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) is considering levying several $100,000 penalties against Verizon New York, Inc. for failing to make timely repairs to telephone lines in several months in 2011.

Verizon did not meet timeliness-of-repair metrics in various service areas in August, September, October, and December of last year, according to a news release from the PSC. The PSC has the power to penalize the company $100,000 for each month.

The PSC’s timeliness-of-repair metrics are tied to the percentage of lines that are out of service for more than 24 hours and the percentage of lines that have issues such as noise, static, or false rings for more than 48 hours.

Verizon does not deserve a penalty for August and September, the PSC said. That is because the company dealt with the effects of Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and a worker strike in those months.

However, PSC staff members indicated that an early September Verizon work-force reduction slowed the company’s rate of repairs in October. And the company again failed to meet timeliness-of-repair standards in December.

Verizon now has 21 days to explain its failure to make timely repairs and give the PSC evidence against assessing fines. The company is taking the PSC’s action under consideration, according to its director of media relations, John Bonomo.

“We are pleased that the commission acknowledged the negative impact tropical storms Irene and Lee had on our ability to meet certain service quality objectives in August and September,” Bonomo said in an e-mail. “However, we are disappointed that the commission didn’t acknowledge how devastating these storms were to the infrastructure in certain Upstate communities that caused us to miss performance objectives in that region in October.

“Verizon New York spent in excess of $75 million to restore service to customers located in the areas hardest hit by these storms,” Bonomo continued. “None of these expenses have been passed on to consumers.  The company continues to invest in New York to deploy state-of-the-art technology and provide high-quality services to our customers. Verizon will review the commission’s decision and will respond accordingly.”

Bonomo also said Verizon did not lay off any employees in September. The work-force reduction referenced by the PSC was likely Verizon ending an internal state of emergency, a state when it cancels vacations in order to increase the number of employees making repairs, he said. The company called that state of emergency after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Verizon is the largest telephone company in New York State and has about 4.4 million lines, according to the PSC.

Contact Seltzer at rseltzer@cnybj.com

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