NY Attorney General Cuomo slams Verizon service

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo criticized telecommunications company Verizon Communications VZ.N on Tuesday for "chronically poor" telephone repair service in the state.

Democratic Attorney General-elect Andrew Cuomo points to a reflection of his father former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo during his speech at the New York State midterm election night celebration in New York in this November 7, 2006 file photo. The Attorney General criticized telecommunications company Verizon Communications on Tuesday for "chronically poor" telephone repair service in the state. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Cuomo’s comments come as the No. 2 phone company is trying to convince regulators and consumers that it can offer better service than cable companies. Verizon is expanding its fiber-optic network to offer high-speed Internet and video services, along with phone services, to compete with cable.

Cuomo said he had called on the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates Verizon, to set stricter standards and require rebates for inadequate service.

The PSC currently requires Verizon to repair 80 percent of phone lines within 24 hours of receiving a customer repair request, but 20 out of Verizon’s 35 repair service bureaus across the state chronically failed to meet the PSC’s standards, Cuomo said.

In response, Verizon said the PSC had raised questions over its service in December, and that the company had already implemented a plan to boost service.

“We’re seeing some positive improvements even in the first quarter of 2007,” Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said. He also said that upgrading to a fiber-optic network would also improve the quality of phone services.

But Cuomo charged that Verizon was neglecting to maintain its traditional phone service in favor of expanding its fiber-optic services. He cited inadequate service in areas including Westchester, Northern Queens, and Long Island, where Verizon is aggressively building its fiber services.

Verizon is still trying to gain licenses in New York to offer video services through its fiber network. It needs to win approval town by town, a lengthy process it has hoped to speed up.

“Verizon’s customers pay for and deserve good quality phone service. Verizon cannot continue to short-change customers by failing to repair faulty lines in a timely manner,” Cuomo added.

“The PSC should immediately order rebates to frustrated customers, who rightly feel cheated by Verizon’s failure to abide by the PSC’s standards.”

Verizon shares fell 1 percent to $37.49 in afternoon trade. Shares in top U.S. phone company AT&T Inc. T.N were down 0.1 percent at $39.22.