TOMS RIVER-Shortly after 2:30 pm today, Verizon Wireless service in northern Ocean County went dark. Six hours later, service had uet not been restored and Verizon Wireless had not released any information as to the cause of the outage or the anticipated length of the outage. The barrier island communities from Mantoloking south to Seaside Park were also affected along with most of Toms River, Brick Township, Berkeley Township and Jackson Township.
The outage came just hours after local legislators raised issues with the Board of Public Utilities over Verizon’s plan to not restore traditional land-line service to devastated portions of Mantoloking, Brick Township and Bayhead. Those communities suffered severe damage to their telephone communications infrastructure during Hurricane Sandy nearly one year ago.
Instead of replacing traditional copper and fiber lines, Verizon announced it will instead opt for a wireless alternative called “Voice Link”.
In a statement from local state assemblyman Greg McGuckin, Verizon explained that the copper wiring damaged by Super Storm Sandy was too costly to replace. Last week, Verizon reversed a similar stance it had taken with residents of Fire Island, N.Y. after receiving negative feedback from the community.
The legislators, in their letter to the Board of Public Utilities voiced concerns over the Voice Link system which would not work with fax machines, security systems and medical devices currently in use.
Sheldon Jones, the public information representative for Verizon in the affected area said at 4pm, he was unaware of what may have caused the issue and was unable to provide an expected length of service interruption.
At 6:30 pm, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department posted a public announcement on their Facebook page, stating they were told by Verizon that the outage would last for another 3 to 4 hours. No cause of the outage was clear.
The outage today reaffirms the residents and legislator’s concerns over a wireless network over traditional land line service.
Prior to Super Storm Sandy, numerous residents in Mantoloking, Bay Head and Brick had been dependant on traditional landline phone service, whose infrastructure was destroyed by the storm. Yet, Verizon has announced that the copper-wire system will not be rebuilt. Instead, residents will be forced to use the company’s Voice Link system. As you may know, there are concerns that the Voice Link system is incompatible with fax machines, security monitoring systems and medical diagnostic devices.
Verizon attempted to impose a similar “solution” on the residents of Fire Island, N.Y. After much outcry from the island’s residents, Verizon has announced that fiber optic cables will replace the copper lines. While numerous municipalities in New Jersey have been wired with fiber optic cable, Mantoloking, Bay Head and part of Brick have not. At this point in time, Verizon has not proposed installing fiber optic cable in Mantoloking.
As representatives of the 10th Legislative District, which includes the affected towns, we respectfully request that the Board of Public Utilities investigate this matter as well as explore the option of requiring Verizon to wire Mantoloking, Bay Head and the affected portion of Brick with fiber optics in order to ensure that all residents have adequate telephone services, which is a basic necessity. We would appreciate the opportunity for the community to be heard on this issue through a public hearing.
We appreciate any assistance that that you and the Board can provide to the affected residents of Ocean County.
Sincerely, Jim Holzapfel, Greg McGuckin, David Wolfe, 10th Legislative District.