Uncertainties over telephone service in Central New York and downstate on Fire Island have attracted the attention of government officials.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the copper wire telephone system on Fire Island, the New York State Public Service Commission granted Verizon temporary approval of its Voice Link service so that landline customers would be able to communicate during the 2013 summer beach season.
But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is wary that the “temporary approval” granted to Verizon may pave the way for the carrier to abandon offering landline service on the western half of Fire Island and potentially other areas further upstate.
Voice Link requires a small battery-powered transmitter and receiver be installed in customers' houses. Concerns have been raised that residents would have just a few hours of voice time during power outages. Verizon says it is working on extending battery life.
In a letter to the PSC, Schneiderman warned Verizon is shirking the responsibility it agreed to when it was granted a local monopoly.
Meantime, upstate, Republican state Senator Joe Griffo is urging Central and Northern New York residents and businesses to contact the PSC with their opinion of the proposed plans to alter the existing 315 area code because of predictions that the region will exhaust the number of available phone numbers that can be assigned to new customers.
“The 315 area code has been a part of the region’s telecommunications system for decades. Those three little numbers have become part of our identity and everyday lives, so when someone wants to change them, the consequences are real. That’s why I have said from the beginning, that a thorough analysis was essential and that any changes should receive a complete public disclosure before implementation,” said Griffo, a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy and Telecommunications.
The PSC is looking for public feedback on two competing plans. A geographic split would divide residents in the 18-county, 315 area code with consumers in a determined region adopting a new area code and allowing the rest of the 315 area code to stay the same. Another plan, known as an overlay, would have all new phone numbers in the 315 area code use a new area code.
The PSC responded to a request for comment by email, offering links to websites that support its perspective on 315 :
1. Link to "plain language" page that describes the proceeding (note the fact sheet, FAQ and map).
2. Link to the formal proceeding, which includes all documents and comments received to date.
The situation involving the Attorney General, Verizon and the PSC could evolve into a legal battle: Hundreds of Fire Island residents have written to the commission, most opposing Verizon's Voice Link deployment plan. The commission has extended the deadline for comments to September 13.