Hundreds of Verizon customers in the West 70’s and 80’s have lost service on their copper Verizon lines over the past few weeks.

People who contacted us said the problems started on February 3, and they have not gotten clear answers from Verizon. “After much prevarication and many delays, customer service representatives now say that the projected repair completion date is Mar 8. This is outrageous,” wrote Jean Ballard Terepka, a college counselor, archivist and historian who uses her home landline for her work too.

“A copper cable has failed,” wrote Mark Rosen. “VZN trucks have been at 75th & Columbus and 74th & Columbus for weeks.  The repair time was to have been two weeks….at the end of two weeks it became three weeks….and now the latest is a four week outage.  This outage has had an impact on both residential and commercial installations on the UWS.  The copper cable seems to be a low priority for VZN.  The priority clearly is FiOS.”

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal’s office was also affected, according to the West Side Spirit, and the office is now using a digital phone service provided through the City Council. “When you called you just got a busy signal,” said [chief of staff Marisa] Maack. “We get a lot of phone calls every day. And in the winter it’s hard for some people to get out. We’re providing social services out of the office so we just couldn’t have this.”

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo told us that winter weather is to blame and that the repairs are ongoing.

“Service to some addresses (not all) in the W. 80s and 70s is being affected by problems in two underground cables between W 73-74th. These two cable were affected by water entering these cables, not unusual during these severe weather months when we experience extreme moisture, melting snow and ice, and possibly amplified by the corrosive elements of road salt. These problems on these two cables have resulted in just over 200 customers to lose any services provided via copper services — voice and High Speed Internet. Fiber cables in this area are not affected, and buildings served by Verizon’s fiber are not affected. We have been unable to open the street for construction, but we are working continually since the problem first occurred to replace large sections of cable that were damaged by the water intrusion. Nearly 100 of these customers have accepted our VoiceLink product to restore their voice services while we complete the repairs; others have declined when offered to them. We expect to have both cables completed and service fully restored within the next two weeks.”

A tech website called Ars Technica noted that Verizon has been moving many customers to VoiceLink, a wireless phone system. “This has been a recurring theme for Verizon, which often tells customers their phone lines can’t be fixed right away but that they can switch to “Voice Link,” a wireless replacement for landlines. Voice Link isn’t regulated as a utility like the copper landlines are, and it can’t last through power outages the way copper lines can.”

UPDATE, 2:50 p.m. Friday: Jean Ballard Terepka writes in to say her phone service was suddenly restored: “My service was fully restored ten minutes ago: I can make calls and receive calls. — I have no way of knowing whether or not there is a connection between my increasing anger as expressed in my many conversations with various Verizon customer services representatives over the last several days on the one hand and the sudden resolution of my problems well ahead of my projected repair date of March 8 on the other. Although I am relieved that my ‘phone service has been restored and am grateful to the individual repair people who effected it, I remain disturbed by the overall story and its implications.”

SECOND UPDATE, Saturday night: Jean says the restored service was very temporary. It lasted all of one day! “This afternoon, when I reached customer service (using my cell ‘phone, whose reception is not very good), I spoke with a Mr. Piecuch. He reported that my record showed no indication of my ‘phone having worked at any time yesterday; he also said that my projected repair date had now been moved to March 9. He said that he had no idea what was causing the delays and that Verizon has a policy of not allowing people to contact anyone of the “engineers” actually working on the problem at hand because “they don’t take ‘phone calls.” When I asked whom I might contact to try to get a clearer understanding of what’s going on, Mr. Piecuch said that there was no one as everyone is already doing everything possible. He did however say that the report of my ‘phone call that he would make for the records related to my account might initiate a process of “checking up on overdue commitments.”

Photo of phone by fabulous fafla.

NEWS | 43 comments | permalink
    1. Sean says:

      Time to move into the 21st Century and ditch the landline.

      • Eric says:

        I am not so certain you will feel that way during the next blackout. Copper phone lines function during power outages, while the “21st Century” solution only works until its backup battery gives out … usually about 8 hours.

        Don’t count on your cell phone … a. the networks can become overburdened during emergencies and b. the towers also need power to run.

        A 2-day blackout could easily leave you without any means to summon 911.

      • whatsupduck says:

        Not if you live in an apartment that doesn’t get cell phone reception and has weak WiFi!

        • Martha says:

          And not if you need a captioned phone either. Insofar as I know, no cell phones provide captions, but my particular land line one does. I can text on a cell phone, but that’s all. You’re going to text your doctor? Your bank? How about Verizon?

          Actually, I can’t even use Verizon or Time Warner since I need an analog connection for the captions. I have to use AT&T for my land line phone, and that’s okay with me. I can’t bundle, but I can use a phone.

          Sean, look outside your particular box, please.

          • Sean says:

            Apps which allow you to use captioning for hearing loss on your smartphone are now coming onto the market. Google for more information. Technology marches on. But bear in mind not all phones are created equal. A cheap phone is a cheap phone.

          • Sean says:

            Martha, I researched it on Google. There are apps now available for captioning on cell phones. But your cell phone has to be a smartphone.

        • Christina says:

          You got that right whatsupduck! I have pretty weak cell service in my apartment.I’ve had to sit by the window and many times stick my head out while talking just to get some sort of signal. I’ve switched service companies several times. It’s still weak. Thank goodness for my landline.

          • Sean says:

            Are you using one of those free cell phones from your carrier? Are you using a clamshell?

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              cell phone service is vastly inferior to landlines for voice conversations. i am so sick of talking to people on cell phones and the conversation breaking up!

            • Christina says:

              No Sean, I have an iphone. I’m right off the river, that may have something to do with it. There have been other complaints in my building as well.

    2. JC says:

      This happened to me last year. I lost service on my Verizon landline for 5 months. At no time did Verizon reach out to me about the service outage and at no time did Verizon offer to refund the charges for that month. I had to call and demand a refund and I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get it. I am sure a lot of customers do not bother calling and asking for a refund. Verizon unfairly retains their money.

    3. Kevin says:

      I used to have phone service through Verizon copper lines and one time my service was out for a month. When I initially called their customer service, they told me they were dispatching a tech to look at the issue and the next day, they reported the issue was fixed, but when I called them back, they said they had to escalate the issue to the Cable Group.

      I then waited a week and heard nothing so I called customer service back and their answer was that the Cable Group had to fix it and it was impossible to contact the Cable Group to find out when the issue would be fixed. I was able to escalate my issue to a supervisor, who actually tried to be helpful, but because it is impossible to contact a supervisor directly, the next few weeks were full of (almost) nightly calls in which I had to resort to screaming at their customer service reps to get any semblance of a real answer before I spoke to a supervisor again. Regardless, it still took a month to get a working dial tone on my phone again.

    4. mc says:

      The same thing happened repeatedly last winter and spring in the 90s. It was outrageous – 2 to 3 weeks outage every time (four times total!). And ridiculously low recompensation rates.

      Why haven’t I changed my DSL to cable? Sheer laziness, I admit!

    5. Bravo says:

      If you look closely at your Verizon (landline) bill you will see that practically every month there is an unexplainable charge. Sometimes it’s a few cents, sometimes a dollar – never an amount you’ll notice right away.
      So for an experiment, I called them when I saw these charges. Without expeption, the charge in question was dropped. The answer to the question about the origin of the charge was answered with, “I don’t know.”
      Verizon is, like most monopolistic concerns, a criminal entity that can do pretty much anything they want. That is what monopolies do. And don’t think that having TWO companies is a competition. It is not.
      I am happily no longer a Verizon client. Tmobile and Sprint work just fie.
      For those who believe copper lines are helpful during blackouts and other disasters: who are you going to call?

    6. Upper West Side Wally says:

      I must say I marvel at the photo of the German ’60 phone!

    7. Dorothy says:

      I’m one of the people affected. Started on 2/3 and was told it would be fixed by 2/18, then 2/28, now 3/9. I accepted and received the temporary VoiceLink replacement, but it’s very limited. I can make/receive calls, but my voice mail isn’t available, and when I make outgoing calls, my caller ID is a 347 number, so many people I’m calling don’t pick up. The situation is quite outrageous. Thinking of switching over to Time Warner telephone service. We haven’t got many good options here in Manhattan.

    8. R Selavy says:

      Ha. This happens to the building where I work at least once a year — every time it rains heavily. The phones are out for weeks at a time, for all the companies that work in the 20 story building. Verizon couldn’t care less.

      I’d love to switch to RCN but they don’t serve all areas and they still have to use Verizon’s copper wires for the “last mile.”

      I don’t understand how this in not considered a monopoly.

    9. m.pipik says:

      Not long ago a Verizon representative told me that the switching for the cooper wires was now mostly digital (or something like that) so that there was no guarantee that the lines would not go out during a power failure.

      I have no idea if this is true. Would love to find out.

    10. Patricia says:

      And what was the Verizon rep saying about the problem last year when we had no phone service for six weeks in the 60’s. Have switched to cable phone. Never could get an answer from Verizon.

    11. UWS Res says:

      Everyone experiencing poor Verizon service should immediately call 1-800-Verizon (837-4966) and report all issues, otherwise no out of service credit will be applied (which is only applied for each 24 hrs., the service issues prevail – keep a log, Verizon does not – only the date/time of your report is recorded). If your service is still not satisfactorily restored after 24 hrs., register a complaint on-line with the NY State Public Service Commission – – it is required to first report the issue to Verizon).

      Verizon’s future strategy is to sell off all landline, copper related holdings which have become too costly to maintain and repair. Just try ordering new landline service or a second copper line.

      ‘Voice Link’ is, as stated above, merely replacing the copper line with a wireless connection. It is NOT the same, your landline becomes a wireless line and once copper is replaced, there is no converting back to copper. Also, as stated above, if there is any type of disaster, cell phones and Voice Link lines will only work as long as the battery allows but your copper line will work. Think about it before forfeiting your copper line.

      • Dorothy says:

        Regarding VoiceLink, that’s not my understanding nor the experience of UWS75 who commented below. I was told that once my landline is fixed, I am supposed to return the VoiceLink box.

    12. Jen says:

      About a year ago, a Verizon repairman in Brooklyn told a customer who’s a friend of mine that he could have fixed her copper landline 3 weeks earlier, but management policy forced him to wait three weeks on landline repairs. Nothing seems to have improved.

    13. Nj says:

      It has been brought to my attention from my neighbor on 80th st that line line has been cut off for longer timeframe because of the lines accidentally being cut during the demolition of the corner building on 80th and Broadway. I believe her.

    14. Kenneth says:

      to set your expectations – re-splicing a severed 3600 pair copper phone cable is a nightmare. Four connections for each telephone – made by hand – working in a hole the size of your refrigerator – at it’s 5 degrees outside. It takes forever. To get a sense, here is what you are dealing with and why they are trying to get away from copper ->

    15. sue says:

      Verizon say area affected is the 70s and 80s. I’ve got news for them….i’m in the 60’s with no service “til March 9” they say! Guess we’ll have to switch to TimeWarner.

    16. UWS75 says:

      Happened last summer too, originally supposed to be out 2 weeks, was out for 3 months. At that time Verizon provided both returnable, no cost VoiceLink and a JackPack for internet, (which they don’t do any more due to a “management decision”). This time, started 2/2. Needing internet, decided not to chance outage again going longer than the estimated 2 weeks, and switched to TWC. Don’t like having no backup battery (Time Warner originally told me $60 battery was included, then reneged) & being subject to losing all 3 services if either a power or system issue, but as stated elsewhere, no other choices. Also, despite their agreement with the city to provide FiOS universally, I haven’t been able to get it for over 3 years.

    17. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Verizon is trying to move everyone off of landline services, in part because the cell phone workers are not unionized. see the NY Times article linked to below:

    18. Erica says:

      If no one has reported this to the Public Utilities Commission, they should. They were able to get action for me the last time Verizon did this to me.

      Bruce, I am not sure Verizon actually owns verizon wireless – and if that’s true, it’s doubtful that they are trying to move people to the other company’s service, union or not. I do think they are ttying to force people off copper and onto FIOS, but I am a FIOS doubter as well. It seems to be very much more expensive, while substantially reducing the benefit of having a landline as a backup system in case of blackout.

    19. gerryK says:

      to join the outpouring, we abandoned our 30-year-old home phone landline last fall when it went out without explanation, a self-diagnostic test Verizon asked us to do suggested the problem was not ours, and Verizon at that point lost any interest in remedying the issue. After paying 2-3 months of charges for zero service, we disconnected the line, and on principle switched a different landline and our Internet service out of Verizon too (though we’d had no particular headaches with either). They’re the worst!

    20. Sean says:

      Seriously, who calls anybody anymore to chat? Let’s text again like we did last summer. Let’s text again. Texting time is here.

    21. Marisa says:

      I live on W. 79 St between Riverside Drive and West End Ave. My telephone is not a copper line, and neither is the weather is not the sole cause of these problems. I noticed a deterioration in service beginning last summer and that gradually got worse. I reported the problem with both my telephone and internet access on January 19 and have been taken around the block many times with false and frequently contradictory claims and promises of repair that never materialized.

      • Marisa says:

        Correction to my second sentence: “My telephone was installed 20 years ago and is not totally dependent on copper, and neither is the weather the sole cause of these problems.” Let me also add that one tech support agent openly stated that Verizon is no longer maintaining “old equipment” because FIOS is available in our neighborhood.

    22. Saving Grace says:

      I had a similar problem a year ago. When I got no help from numerous calls to Verizon, and most of my building was out of phone and internet service, I called the state FCC and filed a complaint. Believe me, I suddenly got assistance!! And the problem which I was told would take a month to fix, was fixed in a day or two. Verizon does not want to service the copper lines anymore, and wants to convert everyone to FIOS. They have decided at the highest levels of the company to phase out the copper lines. FIOS requires an installation to your building and wires which come through a hole over the front door, with exposed wire strung through your apartment. If you have a renovated apartment with your wires behind the walls, this is not acceptable. Tough, says Verizon. FIOS or no more service!!! If problems do persist, call the FCC-It may be eventually inevitable that everyone will have to have FIOS, which eventually will cost more. That’s what monopolies do.

    23. Will says:

      NOW TODAY March 7th, Verizon tells me that my service will be restored by 3/16/2015. The date keeps getting pushed ahead and ahead. They first told me I would have service by 2/17. Not so. My problem goes back to last year before Christmas when I had much static on my land line whenever it was a rainy day. Now they say it is the snow. The sent 3-4 technicians here at different times and each of them told me the problem was fixed. It never lasted. Several times I did not have a dial tone and that is the current problem. NO DIAL TONE.
      Verizon’s agents keep telling me “It will be fixed, It will be fixed”. How long do I have to wait??? C’est la vie !

    24. Vance says:

      Today March 7th, Verizon told me my service will be restored on Match 16th. Previously they told me March 9th. Unbelievable!

    25. David Nisinson says:

      Our land line phones have been down since yesterday (6/1). Verizon said that it would take them 12 days to fix this. Even then they were vague. Do you know anything about this?
      Do you have any updates?

    26. Michael Z says:

      Verizon outages are now affecting Midtown/Hell’s Kitchen too. My land line and Internet went out Feb 22nd. They’re saying it won’t be fixed till March 7th. I’m FURIOUS! WHY aren’t the local politicians getting on this? Are they getting paid off? I’ve been trying for days to get some attention from local politicos — not much interest in helping their constituents.