A complaint filed with the Pennsylvania public utilities commission has driven a Verizon-CWA copper settlement involving maintenance of the company’s traditional landline network infrastructure. Verizon union workers represented by the CWA argued that the company was in violation of statutory obligations to provide adequate service to customers and that public and worker safety were endangered.

CWA filed the complaint in October 2015 and the PUC opened a proceeding to investigate the complaint in April 2016, according to a CWA press release. CWA said it submitted “exhaustive testimony” documenting inadequate maintenance on Verizon’s part.

“For nearly two years, CWA documented Verizon’s failure to repair the copper network and equipment in areas where Verizon has chosen not to build out its FiOS fiber network,” said a CWA district vice president in a press release.

Verizon-CWA Copper Settlement
The Verizon-CWA copper settlement calls for Verizon to:

  • Conduct an engineering review of cable replacement requests made in 2015 and 2016 and complete all cable replacement projects within 18 months. The company will share information about this with CWA.
  • Remediate copper plant in 30 primarily rural communities served by central offices with the worst record of service performance. The company agreed to allocate additional resources to maintain or rehabilitate the infrastructure in these areas within 36 months. Half of the projects must be completed within 15 months.
  • Remediate more than 15,000 “double poles” across Pennsylvania, where an old pole was replaced with a new one from another utility but Verizon did not move its equipment and wiring to the new pole.
  • Inspect batteries in remote terminals and replace them as needed, with priority to those serving 911 and police departments.
  • Report repair and call answer time on a quarterly basis to CWA.

We most often hear of CWA in connection with labor negotiations  with various U.S. telcos. The Verizon-CWA copper settlement is interesting in that the union has sought to use the power of the state PUC to further goals pertinent to job safety and, indirectly, job security. It would appear that Verizon would need to keep a substantial number of employees on staff to meet the various PUC-imposed requirements in Pennsylvania. And at a time when traditional phone service is in decline, that could be an important requirement for extending landline workers’ tenure with the organization.

Verizon did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Telecompetitor. But the company has sold off some landline operations, primarily in areas where the company has not deployed its FiOS fiber-to-the-home infrastructure, at a time when the company has been making major investments on the wireless side of its business with the goal of having the best-performing wireless network nationwide. Verizon and other landline carriers have argued that money spent on maintaining traditional copper networks would be better spent on more modern alternatives based on fiber and wireless. The Pennsylvania PUC action suggests, however, that some of the biggest challenges in phasing out copper may be more on the policy side than the regulatory side.