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Mountain Messenger, Saturday, October 17, 2009

Last week, I reported on Verizon and the West Virginia Public Service Commission responses to inquiries about the area-wide Verizon telephone outage.

This week, I tried to find a human at Verizon who could tell me that Verizon would not charge me for the week without service.  Machine voices and a couple of human beings didn’t know.

Since this was not an individual telephone problem but rather one that affected a whole area, wouldn’t Verizon just automatically reduce everybody’s next bill?

Finally, on late Thursday afternoon, a Verizon person called and said that my next Verizon bill would show a credit for nine (9) days without service.

Fine, I said.  And is that true for my neighbors?  All 400-500 of them?

Well, no, the Verizon person said.  Each person needs to have called the Verizon 1-800 line as soon as they discovered that they had no dial tone.

(This person finally said that the “major area outage” was caused by damage to 1,200 pairs of cables.  He suggested that I call my “local manger” at the “repair center.”  I asked for a name and phone number, which he didn’t have!)

So once again I turned to the West Virginia Public Service Commission.  Although presumably the “public” service commission exists to serve all of us in the “public,” in 1981, the West Virginia legislature authorized Public Service Commission to set up the Consumer Advocate Division to advocate “ primarily on behalf of residential customers, striving to obtain the lowest possible rates for gas, water, telephone, and electric services.”

What, I asked Mr. Byron L. Harris, Director of the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division, will the PSC do to assure that Verizon does not bill customers for a week of no service?

Mr. Harris wrote back:  “Verizon submits Abnormal Service reports to the Public Service Commission. I believe this may be the report for your area.  Location:  Lewisburg’ Exchange:  645; Date & Time of Initial Report:  10/3/09 @ 5:00A’ Nature of Event:  Auto Accident; Approximate Number of Customers:  517/236; RESTORAL: 10/11/09 @ 10:57A.”

Mr. Harris wrote:  “Verizon will provide credits on customer bills for extended service outages, but I believe the customer has to request the credit, it doesn’t happen automatically.”

So there you have it.

If you did not telephone Verizon to report your telephone outage last week, Verizon will not reduce your next bill.

And in the legislature’s wisdom, the West Virginia Public Service Commission, even its Consumer Advocate Division, will not help you.

This is outrage piled on top of outrage.  .

If your do not want to pay Verizon for a week when your telephone was dead, register a complaint with the West Virginia Public Service Commission.  Call 1-800-642-8544, or write to the West Virginia Public Service Commission, 723 Kanawha Boulevard, East, Union Building, Suite 700, Charleston, West Virginia 25301.

All this dealing with Verizon and the Public Service Commission is a lot of work.  It demonstrates the need to change the Public Service from a government agency of three utility persons appointed by the governor back to its original purpose of serving the public.

Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates who are trying to make the PSC serve the public are: Delegates Linda Sumner (R-Raleigh), Robert Beach (D-Monongalia), Stan Shaver (D-Preston), Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), Linda Longstreth (D-Marion), Tim Manchin (D-Marion), Mike Caputo (D-Marion) and Larry Williams (D-Preston), and Joe Talbott (D-Webster).   Let these Delegates know you support them.