Verizon Copper Going To Seed
- Case number = “PUC-2007-00041” document filed date = 07/03/2007
- Case number = “PUC-2007-00008” document filed date = 04/20/2007
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) submits these comments…
The employees CWA represent make up the day to day workforce of Verizon. These employees are the ones who interface with the customer over the phone to take the trouble reports and requests for new service. They are also the employees who will repair the lines, install new equipment and service the lines to ensure that quality service is provided. In this capacity they are uniquely qualified to provide insight into Verizon’s operations from the level of actual work performed, customer comments and any preparation to respond to service issues. Uniformly, the employees of Verizon see a major switch in the allocation of resources away from the traditional copper plant. Copper plants not only provide POTS (plain old telephone service) but also carry much of the business circuits and is instrumental in connecting the wireless network to the rest of the telecommunications infrastructure. Without such connections, cell phones would not function.”Yet, it appears that Verizon has made a business decision to focus on building its new Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) Network in selected areas of the state instead of maintaining the copper plant in areas without the fiber network. This shifting of resources is not just in equipment but also in staffing as well.”
Condition of the Copper Plant
The condition of the telephone plant has been described universally as “deplorable” and in “bad shape”. One Cable Splicing Technician in Danville, with 9 years of experience, said, “We have copper cable that is in terrible condition”. Another technician from Chesapeake, with 10 years of experience, commented, “The outside plant is in the worst condition that I have seen it, in my 10 years. The cables are so defective that when a customer has a trouble, we can’t repair it. We just change it to the best bad pair, knowing that they are going to notice a trouble again in the near future.” A cable technician in Norfolk, with 6 years of experience, commented, “The current condition of the copper plant is poor. We are unable to replace any cable or do any major repairs on the cable. This results in dispatch after dispatch on the same trouble. Damaged pedestals are bagged all around the area with no timeline for replacement”. Bagging pedestals refers to placing a trash bag over top of it to keep out the elements when it is damaged. The plastic bags only last for a short time before they deteriorate and also expose the delicate cable pairs to condensation and moisture. Another technician from the Radford area added, “Verizon’s policy is to put a band-aid on it and forget it. The word “policy” is used because the employees believe this is a plan to let the copper plant “die” and shift customers to Verizon’s Fiber network. “Band-aid” is even the term that Verizon management is using to direct employees. A technician in Virginia Beach, with over 30 years of experience, noticed, “Our third level told us that no money would be expended to maintain the copper plant. We would be putting band-aids on it”. A Cable Splicing Technician from Roanoke, with 12 years of experience, stated, “There are constant repeats because cable has lightning damage and is full of water and Verizon will not fix or replace”. A technician in Suffolk, with over 10 years of experience, commented on this by saying “That the 30-40 jobs (to replace the cable) our supervisor submits are shot down”.
Service Commitment Time
Service Quality Standards require that Verizon complete 80% of the Out of Service trouble reports within 24 hours and 95% within 48 hour. Since Verizon began deploying their FTTP network the commitment dates that have been given to customers has steadily risen. Our members are seeing commitment dates upwards of 5-10 days on a regular basis… From Warrenton a Cable Splicing Technician with over 25 years experience echoed, “We are giving customers 2 week commitments on troubles even when they are out of service”. A medical emergency used to be a priority and would be dispatched on immediately.” Another technician, with over 20 years of experience, told a similar story in Lynchburg; “I repaired a line last Friday that was out of service for a week and the customer was severely disabled. In the past this was within 24 hours.”
CLEC’s such as Cavalier Telephone Get Service Priority
In contrast to the way that Verizon is treating customers, they make a point to give priority to CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers). The employees suspect that this is because Verizon feels that they will face penalties and fines more severe than for failing to service their own customers. A technician from Virginia Beach, with 9 years of experience, advised, “CLECs get first priority on dispatches. Their load must be cleared before we run work on our own customers”. He went on to say that in his area “CLECs are given 1-2 day commitments versus Verizon’s own customers with 5-6 days.” Some employees have been told directly to give special treatment to CLECs. An Engineer from Richmond, with over 20 years of experience, states, “We are told to give CLECs preferential treatment to avoid paying fines. Our own customers get bumped so we can jump through hoops for CLECs”. According to a Richmond technician, “If Verizon has missed the 24 hour service interval benchmark, the company will bump that service order to the bottom of the list and serve those with more recent outage reports in order to manipulate reporting on “percentage of outages repaired within 24 hours”.
Verizon Reluctant to “Roll a Truck”
One of our major concerns that most of our members have commented on is Verizon’s reluctance to physically send out a technician. This is universally known as “scrubbing”. It appears that Verizon will test a line and if that line tests ok then that trouble will be closed. Scrubbers have also closed out jobs that were returned to cable by a service tech. If the line tests ok using the imperfect testing process, it is closed out even though a technician has already found a problem that needs to be addressed. A Maintenance Administrator in Richmond, with 7 years of experience, explained: “We are told to save/close tickets in order to save a truck for a FIOS install, leaving the customer out of service longer”. Many of the same technicians work on the Fiber network and the copper network, so the company is urging more time to be spent on installing new fiber service than fixing existing copper customer troubles. A technician in the Virginia Beach area, with 9 years of experience, made this statement: “Verizon is holding on to repair tickets long enough for weather related problems to clear, than closing them”.
Fewer Resources Allocated
An example of this is offered by a Cable Splicing Technician in Richmond, with 9 years of experience, “The group I work in handles the traditional fiber and electronics in the Richmond area. There are currently eight people working in this group. Before FIOS and FTTP there were close to thirty”. A Cable Splicing Technician in Danville commented: “Years ago we would keep working until everyone we knew was out of service was taken care of, now it’s no overtime”. A Service technician in Spotsylvania, with 10 years of experience, was told, “We are no longer investing in the copper plant, all money goes to FIOS”.
Data supplied by Verizon to the FCC
ARMIS Report reveal these alarming trends in the years from 2000 to 2006:
- Out of Service Repair Intervals for residential customers increased 51.5% over this period.
- Complaints filed by residential customers with the FCC increased by 73 percent over this period.
- In 2006, one-quarter of Verizon customers reported a “repeat” trouble on their line. A “repeat” trouble is a problem on the line that a customer previously reported, Verizon
claimed that they resolved, and that the customer then experienced again as a trouble within 30 days.
CWA convened a roundtable on April 16, 2007 of CWA-represented technicians who work at Verizon as cable splicers. The technicians were based in the communities of Richmond, Virginia Beach, Lynchburg, Falls Church, and Roanoke. They average 18 years service with Verizon. A technician from Roanoke said, “if there is an outage due to defective cable, there is no money in engineering to replace it. I put the customer on the “best bad” copper pair available. Next time it rains and there is water on the line, I’m called back because we haven’t really fixed the problem”. Another technician based in Lynchburg added that Verizon’s Performance Plan (called “PEP”) that requires technicians to complete at least four jobs a day to get a good evaluation creates perverse incentives. “We’re up against the clock, and sometimes can’t thoroughly fix a problem without sacrificing a good performance evaluation. Since a portion of Verizon managers’ pay depends upon meeting performance benchmarks, they push the technicians to make quick fixes rather than solve the underlying problem. A Roanoke-based technician noted that “if I fix a cable with a squirrel bite and another technician simply moves the line onto another pair, he looks like a saint and I look like I’m messing up”.
Richmond Times Dispatch 07/26/2007
Verizon union employees in Virginia say the state’s copper (POTS, DSL) network is in serious disrepair because the company directs the majority of its resources and attention to selective FiOS deployment. According to workers, the copper plant is “deteriorating badly” and is “stretched to the limits.” Some noisy lines and other problems are simply being ignored. Workers say that preventative maintenance programs have been abandoned, and they’re being asked to implement band-aid repairs — which are meant to be temporary but are left permanently. The workers are also complaining that the tools they once relied on to support the DSL network are no longer available.
SCC: Verizon Broke Rules but Won’t be Fined
On March 1st, 2008 the State Corporation Commission ruled that Verizon violated a state rule on its handling of service calls from customers. Even so, it won’t have to pay a penalty. The staff of the SCC communications division asked that Verizon pay a multi-million dollar penalty for claims of violating service quality standards from 2005 through early 2007, but the commission found that its regulation does not specify a penalty for noncompliance. The standard requires that Verizon clear 80% of its service trouble reports each month within 24 hours, and 95 percent of trouble reports within 48 hours. The commission rejected Verizon’s defense that the standard was vague and that the company was justified in missing the standard because it was busy installing fiber-optic lines around its service territory. The commission said that it intends to clarify its service-quality rules. Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said after the ruling, “We can always do a better job on customer service, and we’re focused on doing that. Verizon’s investment in fiber optics is one of the things the company is doing to improve service. In a competitive communications market, the true standard of acceptable service is determined by the customer who chooses to stay with a telecommunications service provider.”