Office of Public Counsel Ignores Evidence in Verizon Service Review

TAMPA, Fla. - Verizon today once again strongly refuted claims made by the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) critical of the company's commitment to quality service, saying the OPC has consistently ignored the facts.

The OPC's two-year investigation of GTE's service will be the subject of a hearing tomorrow in Tallahassee before the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC).

The hearing will address PSC service standards that GTE, now Verizon, missed between 1996 and 1999. The OPC will charge that GTE conspired to intentionally miss these standards by investing less in its service effort in order to boost company profits. The company has acknowledged that there were periods during those years it fell short of the standards, but adamantly denies the charge that it was intentional.

''It is absurd to think that a company that depends upon providing quality service to its customers as a measurement of its effectiveness would intentionally provide bad service, or intentionally create an environment for bad service,'' said John Ferrell, president-Florida operations, Verizon. ''GTE's goals were always to meet or exceed state standards, as evidenced by internal documents from that time. Given the conditions, our service overall from 1996-99 was good and since that time has improved even more. In fact, Verizon has a near-perfect record in meeting the PSC's installation and repair standards over the last 18 months.''

The OPC contends that ever-larger budgets are the only way to guarantee good service. This contention ignores the company's excellent service since late 1999, which has been accomplished while maintaining the balance between the customer's needs and greater economic efficiencies for the company. Additionally, the company's testimony provided detailed service reports and explanations of company processes that OPC glosses over or ignores, including a document that refutes OPC's claims that efforts to correct service misses were initiated only after the service review began.

The notion that the company's network investment and workforce budgets in the late 90s led to the service misses is rooted in speculation by the OPC and completely wrong, Ferrell said. ''Our $1 billion-plus network and customer service investment in Florida from 1996 and 1999 demonstrates our consistent commitment to excellence,'' he said.

The PSC opened an investigation in September 1999 to address installation and repair service misses dating back to 1998. A settlement was reached between the company and PSC staff in the fall of 1999. The Office of Public Counsel, which successfully petitioned the commission to expand the show cause back to 1996, subsequently blocked the settlement. Written testimony filed by the OPC and Verizon, as well as written responses to that testimony, will serve as the foundation for the hearing.

''Despite the overwhelming proof that the OPC's charges are unfounded, OPC insists that this hearing is needed,'' said Ferrell. ''The testimony presented by OPC last April in this proceeding has no basis in fact and draws sweeping conclusions based on misinterpretation and mischaracterization of documentary evidence. The company's rebuttal testimony this April demonstrates how groundless OPC's arguments are and how poorly it has interpreted company information.''

The company said in its testimony that reports and documents were used by the OPC to concoct a false picture of willful negligence of service by the company. One misinterpretation involves an on-going report of grounding protection against lightning in network connection boxes. The OPC implies that the report represents the entire network inventory of this telephone equipment. In reality, it represents only three percent of the total number of boxes in the service territory. The OPC's conclusion - that 61 percent of the network's boxes were poorly grounded - is incorrect. Other examples of incorrect representations are provided in the company's testimony.

Similar show cause proceedings against Sprint and Bell South have either been settled or are in process.

''GTE was a keenly responsible company and so is Verizon,'' said Ferrell. ''We will continue to provide the highest level of service to our Florida customers, regardless of where they live. A look at our current service record confirms our pledge.''


Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 112 million access line equivalents and 27 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with approximately 260,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com