Newscasts

PNS Daily Newscast - September 26, 2018 


Trump takes the gloves off versus Kavanaugh accusers. Also on the Wednesday rundown: rural areas reap benefits from Medicaid expansion; a two-generation approach to helping young Louisiana parents; and a new documentary on the impact of climate change in North Carolina.

Daily Newscasts

Sandy Victims “Guinea Pigs” in Verizon Plan?

Parts of Fire Island which were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy seven months ago will have copper telephone lines replaced by a wireless phone service offered by Verizon. Consumer advocates say it’s unfair to make victims of natural disasters unwilling ‘beta testers’ for new technology. Photo credit: Christopher Ragazzo/FEMA
Parts of Fire Island which were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy seven months ago will have copper telephone lines replaced by a wireless phone service offered by Verizon. Consumer advocates say it’s unfair to make victims of natural disasters unwilling ‘beta testers’ for new technology. Photo credit: Christopher Ragazzo/FEMA
May 24, 2013

FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. – Verizon, one of the nation's largest phone companies, is planning to replace traditional phone lines destroyed by Hurricane Sandy with an alternative, wireless system.

But some critics are saying, "Hold the phone!"

Instead of replacing old, copper-wire land lines in storm-battered parts of the Northeast with its superior fiber-optic technology, Verizon has been given permission to put in something called Voice Link in parts of Fire Island. It will give customers phone service, but not mobile service and not an Internet connection.

Harold Feld, senior vice president of the communications watchdog group Public Knowledge, says Voice Link is unproven.

"It is just simply not fair to people who are victims of a natural disaster to make them unwilling 'beta testers' for your new technology," he says.

Responding to the criticism and also concern from the New York Attorney General's office, the Public Service Commission is looking closely at whether to allow expansion of Voice Link.

Critics say they expect Verizon and other phone companies to make similar moves in areas hit by tornadoes and wildfires.

Advocates for senior citizens question Voice Link’s reliability for medical monitoring systems and lifeline communications for the elderly.

Bill Ferris, state legislative representative for AARP New York, says he understands Voice Link would require new batteries in about two days if power went out in a future weather event.

"For the population that we represent – and for all New Yorkers – if your power goes down and the system goes down for communication, how will you contact emergency services?” he asks. “How will you contact your loved ones and tell them that you're in trouble?"

Harold Feld says phone companies should not be given free rein to try out new technology on what he labels "guinea pigs" – victims of natural disasters.

"Instead, have some 'adult supervision'” he demands, “that says, 'No, you've to make sure that consumers are protected and make sure that people who are struggling to rebuild their lives have access to the same kind of services that they had before the disaster.”

Feld says he expects AT&T to propose installing the wireless alternative in Oklahoma in the wake of the tornado devastation there.

"We got the rest of the tornado season,” he says. “We got hurricane season. Out West, there will be wildfires. What we really need is for the states and for the Federal Communications Commission to step in."

Verizon says Voice Link solves the problem of copper wiring failures in places like New York's North Country where cold and ice affect installations.


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY