AARP knows that telephone communication is a basic necessity, particularly for older people so they can maintain social contact, preserve health and safety, and gain assistance in an emergency. In fact, people age 60 and older are more likely than any other age group to have telephone service in their home.
AARP is fighting on behalf of our members and all consumers throughout the nation for basic telecommunications principles:
- Consumers must have affordable, reliable and high-quality access to essential telecommunications services in their residences, regardless of where they live.
- Consumers should always have the option to purchase only the services they want or need.
- Vigorous, true and effective competition among service providers is essential to ensuring lower prices and better-quality service for residential customers.
- Strong consumer protections are essential to ensuring provider competition, affordable rates and reliable service.
AARP recognizes that consumers' safety and well-being depend on reliable telephone service. When residents face medical emergencies, extreme weather or other crises, they turn to their telephones to reach help.
Further, older adults with mobility impairment are among those who depend most critically on a reliable phone connection. The ability to reach emergency services reliably can be a matter of life or death. That’s why AARP has fought for more than 20 years in states across the nation for accessible, affordable and reliable telephone services.
Superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact across the Northeast in late 2012 caused us to roll up our sleeves and fight on behalf of consumers for their telecommunications service when that service was threatened.
AARP New Jersey and AARP New York work to protect reliable telephone service
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Verizon wanted to replace traditional landline service with Voice Link, a fixed-wireless home telephone service, in communities in New Jersey and New York. AARP fought back on behalf of our members and other consumers because the new service would leave telephone customers in the lurch when it comes to reliability of service, especially during prolonged power outages, and its lack of compatibility with medical devices, home security and Internet access.
In formal comments we filed with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the New York Public Service Commission, we called the push, if successful, “bad news” for consumers, especially frail seniors, threatening their safety. AARP urged the commissions to reject the Voice Link proposal.
In late summer 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave notice to Verizon that it would not automatically approve the carrier's application to replace its traditional wireline network with the fixed wireless Voice Link service in Fire Island, N.Y., and Mantoloking, N.J.
Subsequently, Verizon announced its intention to withdraw its petition to New York's Public Service Commission to offer only Voice Link service and has instead announced plans to build fiber optic landlines in areas of New York damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The company will also offer Voice Link service as an optional service.
“Traditional telephone service is a basic necessity, and customers across New York must be able to rely on personal emergency-alert technologies such as Life Alert, medical-monitoring devices and home-security systems,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Voice Link, in most instances, doesn’t support these crucial technologies, and we’re glad Verizon is moving to offer other options in New York that do."
But, plans to move forward with Voice Link in New Jersey communities hard hit by Superstorm Sandy are still underway.
AARP New Jersey State Director Jim Dieterle said, “Verizon is legally obligated to provide residents of each and every town throughout the Garden State with access to affordable, reliable landline telephone service. If and when the next big storm comes, when the power goes out, the batteries become drained, and the darkness falls, the very people that Verizon is seeking to disconnect will be the ones who need their traditional telephone service the most.”
AARP will continue to fight for our members and their families to ensure they have access to the reliable phone services they count on.
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