Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Customer Upset by Verizon Tactics Puc: Firm Did Not Break Any Rules

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Customer Upset by Verizon Tactics Puc: Firm Did Not Break Any Rules

Article excerpt

Mt. Lebanon resident Darl McMahon says she's never been late paying her Verizon phone or internet bill.

Nevertheless, the company cut off her service last month, abruptly leaving the 69-year-old without internet access or a telephone.

"It was horrible," Mrs. McMahon, who doesn't have a cell phone, said of the weekend suspension. "I was always taught that if you paid your bills, you would have your utilities."

Verizon took the action after Mrs. McMahon refused repeated attempts to set up an appointment for a technician to visit her home as part of the company's plan to switch her neighborhood from copper wires to a fiber optic network.

Mrs. McMahon says she wanted to know exactly what Verizon needed to do inside her house before letting anyone in. "They wouldn't tell me," she said, other than to say that the technician wouldn't know until going inside to look around.

"I don't want someone going room to room destroying my house," she said. "I don't want them wrecking my walls. I have a finished basement."

After her phone was shut off, she relented and scheduled an appointment for early February. Her service was immediately restored.

But Mrs. McMahon wasn't happy.

"The thing that really angers me the most is, if I pay my bill, they still can shut my phone off," she said. "It's scary and it's sad."

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said Verizon did not break any rules.

"Utilities have the right to access their facilities," Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said. "If there is a meter or connection that is inside the structure and they need access, refusing to give them access is grounds for terminating service."

Verizon acknowledged that it may "suspend" service for up to two weeks during fiber optic conversions when attempts to set up an appointment fail.

"The idea being that if the line is of use to someone, the customer will call in and make an appointment," said spokesman Mike Murphy, noting that during a suspension customers are still able to make 911 calls or to contact the company. "After two weeks, if no one has reached out, the expectation is that line would be disconnected. …

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