Hearings set to investigate Verizon's copper networks, but that's not enough

8 June 2015 by Steve Blum
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But it’s coming over the road, not over the top.

The condition of Verizon’s copper networks will be assessed, at least to an extent, by the California Public Utilities Commission. That’ll happen whether or not commissioners go along with president Michael Picker’s plan to cancel a formal study of wireline service in California. Verizon needs permission to sell its wireline systems to Frontier Communications. To help it reach a decision, the CPUC is holding what looks to be a lot of public hearings all over the state, specifically asking local residents about the state of those networks

The assets to be transferred include, in addition to the customer accounts, the physical assets of Verizon California such as poles, wires, switches, trucks, central offices and the like…

The workshops will review the technical condition of the network in the areas adjacent to the [public participation hearing] locations in order to inform the parties and Commission about the operational status of the facilities to be migrated from Verizon to Frontier, and what steps may be necessary to satisfy the consumer benefit and public interest tests for approval of such transfers under the Public Utilities Code.

The first set of hearings are set for the beginning of July in Garberville, Hoopa and Orleans, all small towns in northwestern California (click here to see the dates, times and exact locations).

It’s a good thing that the public hearings and workshops will be held. I hope the schedule eventually includes western Kern County’s oil communities, where Verizon refuses to upgrade to even 1990s-grade DSL service, despite surplus long haul fiber running through those small towns.

The kind of anecdotal evidence you get at these events will certainly point to problems and provide insight into what’s really happening with rural wireline networks in California. But it’s not enough. Commissioners are due to vote on whether to scupper a rigorous and technically sophisticated evaluation of both Verizon’s and AT&T’s copper systems. That’s a bad idea. They should reject Picker’s proposal and quickly move ahead with the study.