N.J. may ease Verizon’s broadband obligation
MARCH 14, 2014, 11:44 PM
BY HUGH MORLEY
A battle over broadband Internet access is pitting Verizon New Jersey and the state Board of Public Utilities against town officials, a union and public interest groups that say the company hasn’t fulfilled its promise to provide statewide service despite millions of dollars in rate increases aimed at funding the project.
A deal struck between the state and Verizon more than 20 years ago — dubbed Opportunity New Jersey — was heralded as a plan to make the state one of the most wired in the nation, financed in part by a dollar-a-month surcharge on customers’ phone bills that some say has brought in billions. The deal, announced in 1993, also allowed the company looser regulatory oversight than it would otherwise have.
But 21 years later — four years beyond the project’s 2010 deadline — portions of the state remain unserved, and the Board of Public Utilities is about to sign off on an agreement that would modify some requirements of the original deal, including allowing the company to provide only high-speed wireless Internet in some areas.
The question of the company’s compliance with the deal came under scrutiny after officials in two towns, Greenwich and Stow Creek, in Cumberland County, complained to the state BPU about poor phone service and their lack of access to broadband.