Among the devestation left by Hurricane Sandy last year, damage to landline telephone service has proved to be particularly difficult to repair, with necessary parts in short supply. On New York's Fire Island, Verizon has tried to avoid replacing damaged copper lines, instead pushing affected customers onto a wireless service called Voice Link. But following public outcry over quality of service, the company is backing down, replacing its damaged copper lines with fiber optic cable.
"We want [it] to be as good or better than what we have now."
When Verizon began telling Fire Island residents that it wouldn’t replace the damaged copper in the spring, the backlash was immediate. Criticisms heaped on Voice Link primarily revolve around spotty service (calls are routed through Verizon's wireless network) that makes it unreliable for 911 calls. It’s also incompatible with many existing services like home security systems, fax machines, and DSL internet. And because it needs a separate power supply, it’s unusable during blackouts. Speaking to CNN, Public Knowledge VP Harold Field said of Voice Link, "if we do switch to wireless as an alternative, then we want [it] to be as good or better than what we have now."
While pressure from residents and the FCC have ultimately convinced Verizon to bring fiber to Fire Island, it turns out that the company had been planning to ditch its expensive copper networks for some time, and just seized on the opportunity presented by Sandy to make the switch. The Village Voice reported that during a private financial conference, CEO Lowell McAdam told investors that Verizon was "going to kill the copper," taking it out of service. McAdam referred to the switch as a "pot of gold, in my view." Now, with fiber optic service, residents will have the choice of voice-only service or a bundle including high-speed internet, although FiOS TV will not be part of the package. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement that "by installing fiber-optic cables on the island, Verizon will not only make the system as good as it was before, it will be making it better."