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RETIREE PSC TESTIMONY JULY 15, 2015

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Testimony of Patrick Welsh

Patrick Welsh, retired from Verizon after 36 years.  Cable splicer and pay phone installer.
When I worked at Verizon the PSC was powerful and feared by management.  Any hint of a PSC inspection in the managers area sent them scurrying to have us check every possible problem.  In the public phone department, if we were asked to work Sunday we knew the PSC was coming on Monday.  But now, because of deregulation and the lowering of standards and fines, that is not the case anymore, New York State telecommunications customers have minimal protection against telephone and cable provider’s abuses.
I am a leader of my union’s retiree organization so I have contact with many older New York residents.  Ninety percent of seniors still have copper line service.  It is cheaper than cable and they feel, by past performance, it is more reliable.  In most cases, service was restored in 24 to 48 hours.  Many seniors receive internet service on DSL over the copper lines.  Lose of service does not effect only their voice line.
Over the past five years, service has changed dramatically.  When customers lose service they are not told service will be restored in 24 to 48 hours, they are told 3 or 4 weeks or whenever.  Many customers, particularly seniors, still rely solely on their copper lines to stay in touch with family and others.  Having no service for 3 or 4 weeks is not uncommon and is an unnecessary and blatant violation of Verizon’s mandate.  Unnecessary because they have the workforce to maintain their infrastructure and blatant because they are consciously reducing that workforce. 
Since Verizon has moved on to the wireless world they seem to think everyone else has and if not, too bad for those that did not.
Others will or have spoken about Verizon’s FIOS build out.  There are many frustrated citizens who would like to have the choice of FIOS and cannot get it.  There are endless commercials by Verizon pushing their product to create a demand and then are told sorry you cannot have it.
This is not only a problem in NYC but across the state.  In a recent letter to the editor of the local Westchester newspaper, a Croton Village Trustee wrote, “Many residents, myself included, are frustrated by the lack of options when it comes to telecommunications service in our village.  Especially troubling is the lack of FIOS franchise that would provide an alternative to Cablevision.
Unfortunately, Verizon as a matter of corporate policy will not extend it FIOS TV network to Croton or anywhere else.  Just last week, one of Verizon’s lawyers wrote to the village that “Verizon remains focused on meeting its commitments to the municipalities with secured video franchises and has no plans to expand FIOS in New York.” “
Verizon is a private corporation and has the right to sell its FIOS product where it wants, although I believe all cable companies providing service in New York State should be mandated to service the whole state, but Verizon is also a public utility with a mandate to provide voice service to all.  It seems to be providing voice, internet and video to select group at the expense of the rest and providing poor service to those still on copper. 
In New York City, Verizon has been dragging its feet on spreading FIOS citywide.  A perfect example is Co-op City in the Bronx, the largest Co-op in the country if not the world.  An estimated 43,000 people have access to only one cable provider in a city that has a franchise agreement with Verizon.  Many attempts have been made to encourage Verizon into an agreement with the Co-op board but local Verizon management has no interest.
If New York State is going to maintain its Empire State status, attracting businesses and talented people, high speed broadband is a must.  This state has the capabilities to be a leader in technology and information but it will not happen if our broadband service is mismatched groupings of citizens and neighborhoods receiving drastic differences in broadband service and access.  I encourage this commission to enforce the mandates on record and push for new legislation that will force providers to expand their networks to serve all of New York State equally.
Thank You