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Measure Would Block NJ Phone Companies From Abandoning Landlines [AUDIO]

Phone companies in New Jersey eager to replace traditional copper lines with wireless systems will have to wait until the kinks are worked out if a bill proposed by Central Jersey Assemblyman Daniel Benson is passed.

Landline Phone
Flickr Karolina Kabat

After Sandy, several New Jersey and New York communities saw their copper phone lines switched out for wireless telephone systems. In Mantoloking, Verizon was planning on replacing their traditional phone lines with the wireless “Voice Link” system. On New York’s Fire Island, a plan to install similar systems was changed after residents complained.

“There’s a lot of concerns about public safety. In fact, Verizon has backed off and said it will install Verizon instead. So why should Mantoloking have a second rate service,” says Benson.

In Mantoloking, Verizon said since customers have the option of getting landlines from Comcast, they will not provide a copper line option.

Unlike traditional copper phone lines, which stay working even during outages, Benson says the wireless systems aren’t built to stay on similarly during blackouts.

“And when you move to the wireless, you can’t have home alarm systems through it, you can’t use the fax, and when the power goes out you lose the service,” Benson says, adding that most medical alert systems also don’t work through wireless phone systems.

His bill calls for a one-year moratorium on phone companies abandoning copper wiring and would have the Board of Public Utilities host three public meetings throughout the year (in North, Central, and South Jersey) to hear the public’s concerns for or against the switch.

Following the public hearings and after notice and opportunity for public comment, the BPR must prepare and submit a report to the governor and the Legislature with information regarding the potential impact on customers, rates, public safety and reliability if copper-based, landline telephone service is replaced.

He notes while the technology can be viable, it’s not there yet. While it’s more cost-efficient for companies to abandon copper wires, Benson says it shouldn’t be at the cost of residents.

“The phone companies have always restored service and rebuilt, this is the first time that we see that they’re trying to serve the customers with a landline service and force the current customers over to wireless.”

However, he notes if companies want to provide it as an option along with traditional land lines, there is no problem with that.

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