Marginal communities losing wireline connectivity

5 July 2013 by Steve Blum
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It’s all fun and games until somebody cuts the cord.

High potential” areas get fiber, low potential areas lose even copper connectivity. The latest evidence of that trend comes from Fire Island in New York. It’s a barrier island resort area just off the Long Island coast with about five hundred year-round residents and thousands of part-timers and visitors. It was whacked by hurricane Sandy last year, which, among things, swamped Verizon’s legacy wireline network.

Instead of repairing it, Verizon is telling residents that they can sign up for its new Voice Link service, which uses a gizmo to connect home phones to Verizon’s mobile network. It’s being accused of doing the same thing in Monticello, another weekend getaway location in the Catskill mountains. In both cases, seasonal residents tend to just use their mobile phones anyway, leaving a small base of full time POTS customers.

Arguably, using an in-home base station to connect to a 4G mobile network delivers good-enough voice service. But it doesn’t support DSL or even dial-up Internet connections. To get broadband service, residents have to set up – and pay for – separate accounts and equipment with a wireless carrier. Like Verizon.

The New York state attorney general has filed a press release protest with the state public utilities regulator, which is already arm wrestling Verizon over the issue.

California has its own problems with shrinking wireline connectivity. AT&T has other capital investment priorities, preferring to expand its mobile network and build fiber to a select few densely packed business districts. Neighborhoods deemed worth the trouble are seeing Uverse upgrades, while many rural residents, for example in the Yosemite area, can’t buy DSL anymore. Existing customers are still connected, but new arrivals are being told they can’t subscribe, in many cases leaving them with no options for getting online, other than expensive satellite service.