×

Warwick phones restored, but residents not satisfied yet

  • Stock photo of a landline telephone. Metro Creative Graphics



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

WARWICK — After four days of some residents experiencing crossed lines and others with no service at all, phone service was restored by Verizon.

Despite the fix, residents caution that it’s likely a temporary solution, signaling to years of spotty landline service — one that exposes long-standing issues in the small town.

“Our problem relates to the internet problem. We’re such a small market that they don’t see us as a place to invest,” Warwick Town Coordinator David Young said.

The issue that hampered people’s Christmas weekend, while creating the potential for public safety concerns, was solved around 2 p.m. Tuesday, although at least two residents were experiencing issues again, by the early evening.

“Technicians repaired and/or replaced several pieces of equipment over the past several days to bring about the fix,” Mike Murphy, a Verizon spokesman, said in an email Tuesday. “We are appreciative of the work of our technicians and apologize to customers for any inconvenience.”

While Young was thankful for the local Verizon technician, whose first name he believes to be Pedro, he worries what will happen when the person who has been working on Warwick’s telephone issues for two decades retires.

Some residents, though, weren’t as concerned with this latest issue, wanting, instead, to focus the attention toward decades of what they feel is negligence on the part of the telephone company. “We’re better off using carrying pigeons or smoke signals. It’s more reliable,” said Stephen Pontz, a former Selectboard chairman.

Recalling a meeting in Athol with Verizon representatives about two decades ago, Pontz said there was a promise made that the lone telephone company in the area would start to build out its fiber optics system in Warwick. This was supposed to solve the problems the town had already been experiencing for years, he said.

“We’re paying the same price as everybody else, but we’re not getting the same services and upkeep and it’s actually putting our citizens in danger,” Pontz said. “They’re gambling with our lives.”

Pontz suggested that Verizon wants to move forward into the cell phone world because the landline world is no longer profitable, saying, “That’s why Warwick is like it is. They don’t want to put money into it.”

He pointed to Warwick still having outdated copper technology, with some telephone lines that hang on trees and not formal telephone poles, as proof of the phone company’s neglect. For Warwick, there is a switchboard in town, with the main technology based in Orange.

There are no current plans to bring fiber optics to Warwick, according to Murphy.

“They’re trying to force us to cell phone service but they have to do something with the signal,” Pontz said. “And with only 800 people in the town, they don’t see the need to justify the expense. So we’re basically sucking air. This has to stop.”

Young, who hasn’t had his own landline in about 14 years, uses his cell phone with the town’s broadband service. But everyone in town is not able to do this.

Young said when the town thought about trying to build out its own fiber optics system, including internet data, the estimate came to about to $2.5 million, compared to the roughly $550,000 the town decided to spend on a wireless upgrade.

“I still firmly believe that in sparsely populated areas, in rural areas, wireless is superior technology, with respect to being cost effective and being pretty robust,” Young said.

Nonetheless, Young and Pontz point to the ability for the elderly to receive and make phone calls on a system, like a landline, that they feel comfortable using. If phones are down and an elderly person needs to make a 911 call, Pontz wonders what will happen.

“It’s a big concern for me. It always has been,” Pontz said. “I’m not going to stop here. I’m going to make sure they do what they’ve always promised, to upgrade. I don’t want my neighbors in town to be at risk anymore. Were in the Flinstone Age here, while everybody else is in the Jetsons Age.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264