Verizon ordered to explain why copper is rotting in California

21 August 2015 by Steve Blum
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What was the question?

Verizon will have to explain, on paper and in person, why its copper telephone networks are rotting on the poles in California. A California Public Utility Commission administrative law judge (ALJ) conducting hearings into Frontier Communications proposed purchase of the company’s wireline systems has ordered Verizon to

Prepare…a comprehensive report on the current condition of [the Verizon land line network] and the cost and extent of repairs required to bring the Network into compliance with Commission-imposed standards of safety and reliability, and to make available for cross-examination at the evidentiary hearings a person or persons most knowledgeable regarding the contents of that report.

Those hearings are scheduled to last for two full days, later in September. Anyone who has information about the state of Verizon’s legacy copper networks can also participate, within the bounds set by the ALJ.

Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, along with commission-assigned ALJs, held hearings in areas throughout California that are served by Verizon, as part of the regulatory evaluation of Frontier’s proposed takeover. At the hearing I attended, in Santa Clara, Verizon sent an engineering manager, who talked about all the improvements the company was making, and a lawyer, whose job seemed to be limited to pointing out that no one had actually proved that their infrastructure is crap. Yet.

It’s important to know the true condition of Verizon’s Californian wireline networks, and if CPUC rules have been broken then retrospective penalties are appropriate. But the real purpose of the hearings is to decide whether we’d be better off with Frontier in charge. At this point, the answer seems obvious.