Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lingering Verizon Strike Delays Orders for New Telephone Service Rivals Hoping to Gain Business

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lingering Verizon Strike Delays Orders for New Telephone Service Rivals Hoping to Gain Business

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Moving was stressful enough before a telephone workers strike in New England and Mid-Atlantic states made it tougher to get service in that new home or apartment.

"There's only so long people can wait for a phone," said Gwen Allday, a graduate student affected by the strike against Verizon Communications, the region's dominant provider of local service.

With the company postponing nearly all orders for new lines until workers return, some competitors see an opportunity to sign up consumers frustrated by the delays.

The company and unions representing 87,200 workers returned to the bargaining table yesterday, still tussling over required overtime and other job security issues.

Verizon is trying to cover the workload with its 30,000 managers. But the company is concentrating not on new installations or additional lines, but on whittling down a pile of up to 90,000 repairs orders. About 26,000 orders are getting completed each day, according to Verizon.

"We must focus on keeping the network up and running," said Eric Rabe of Verizon.

Consumers like Allday, who secured an installation date before the strike, are facing indefinite delays. With no cell phone in hand and a building where people need to call her apartment to get buzzed in, Allday and her roommate are considering calling a rival local carrier in Washington.

The strike has given some competitors in the local phone and high-speed data market hope of increasing their market share.

"We already are seeing that consumers would like a choice," said John McCallum, co-chairman of Starpower, a joint venture between RCN Corp. and Pepco Communications, which offers competing local phone service in Washington and surrounding areas. "I think the longer the strike goes, the more consumers will appreciate that."

Unlike some rivals, Starpower has its own extensive phone network and does not need to lease phone lines from Verizon's Bell system -- an advantage over competitors whose orders with Verizon will take longer to process because of the strike. …

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