It was called Opportunity New Jersey, and you’ve already been paying for it for more than 20 years. It was designed to make this state one of the most wired, most advanced in the nation. If you’re a Verizon customer, you’ve been financing this at $1 dollar per month on your phone bills, with old copper wire out, fast new fiber optic services in. Verizon took in billions, according to some reports. Verizon, after striking this deal in 1993, also got the state to agree to looser regulatory oversight that it would have had without the deal. And the deal was, “essential” to the economic growth of NJ, which you now know is sluggish.
But depending on where you live, you might not feel very good about it. As long as two years ago, came reports that “the battle for America’s entire communications future is playing out this week in two small towns in New Jersey.” Those two little towns are both in Cumberland County; Greenwich and Stow Creek, where phone lines would suddenly go out, not for hours but for weeks or have background noise, plus bad wireless, and no cable. After complaints, the company seemed to do little more than move the goalpost.
Flash forward. We’re now 4 years past the 2010 deadline. And now BPU’s about to OK an agreement that would modify some requirements of the original deal, including allowing the company to provide only high-speed wireless Internet in some areas. Which is not what they promised, not what they collected your money for, and not what serves the people who won’t be getting that high-speed wireless. Verizon says it’s already invested heavily in the state. Here’s what NJ Citizen Action says:
Every Verizon telephone customer in NJ has been paying an extra $1 on their phone bill for the last 20 years so Verizon could build out high speed internet network to the entire state. We’ve paid for it, and now Verizon is saying they don’t have to do it.
BPU has kind of an arcane platform for registering comments. But if you want them to hear from you on this issue, here’s what to do: (1) me@BPU at this address. Put this in the subject field: “Verizon New Jersey, Docket No. TO12020155”. Deadline is 5pm, March 24.