Verizon asks delay of hearing on service

Phone giant tells PSC it can't meet demand for records

August 07, 2007|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,Sun reporter

Saying it was not given sufficient time to comply with a sweeping order to turn over documents related to customer service, phone giant Verizon yesterday sought to put off a hearing into the issue until next week.

The state Public Service Commission announced Friday afternoon that it was launching a probe into Verizon's repair record after receiving hundreds of complaints that the company took two weeks or more to restore phone service after outages.

The PSC ordered Verizon to provide extensive records related to repairs, policies and staffing by yesterday afternoon and to face regulators' questions at a hearing tomorrow.

"Verizon respectfully states that a deadline of one business day to respond to document requests is ... unreasonable," Verizon Maryland Inc., which has more than 2 million local phone lines, said in an emergency motion filed with the PSC.

But a PSC spokeswoman said last night that the commission intends to go ahead with tomorrow's hearing and that Verizon needs to provide whatever information it can.

"There's going to be a hearing this coming Wednesday," said LaWanda Edwards, a spokeswoman for the PSC. "They will be there addressing questions; the commissioners will be asking about some of the complaints we've received. As for the documents, they will be expected to bring what information they have and we'll go from there."

Edwards said the PSC wants to move quickly to resolve service complaints.

In its Friday order, the PSC said it has received 200 to 300 complaints about repair service this year. Some people waited two weeks or more to get phone service restored. Other customers said they had difficulties in scheduling repair appointments or that crews did not show up.

The PSC officials said the extended outages were a health and safety issue because customers could not call 911.

PSC Chairman Steven B. Larsen said the PSC wanted to determine how extensive service problems are, what procedures Verizon has in place to deal with them and whether staffing levels have changed.

Verizon said in its motion that it could not produce so much information on such short notice. Verizon said it received official notice of the order at 4:23 p.m. Friday - 37 minutes before closing time. They were due by 4 p.m. yesterday. Without the documents, it would also be unprepared for the hearing, it said.

The company said the commission generally grants 10 business days for such data requests. Verizon asked to have until next Monday to provide the documents and until next Tuesday for the hearing.

A Verizon spokeswoman has said that the company officials do not believe Verizon is providing bad service. With so many lines and hundreds of thousands of service calls, the officials believe most customers are satisfied with their service.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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