HARRISBURG, Pa. - Contrary to misleading claims by competitors, a recent telecommunications bill passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly represents the most aggressive, comprehensive broadband network deployment plan in the United States, providing significant benefits for the state's consumers, as well as its educational and business communities.
In a recent news release, the Pennsylvania Carriers' Coalition claimed that telecom competition is threatened here and that Pennsylvania lags behind other states in broadband services.
"The coalition's claims are totally baseless," said James V. O'Rourke, president and CEO of Verizon Pennsylvania. "Pennsylvanians benefit from vibrant, widespread telecommunications competition among incumbent local phone companies like Verizon, competing landline companies, wireless providers, cable companies and Internet-based phone companies. That competition is here, it's irreversible and it's growing."
Amid this accelerating competition, Pennsylvania's local telephone companies have made great strides over the past decade in bringing broadband telecommunications services to consumers and businesses throughout the state. Verizon Pennsylvania's network is among the most advanced in the nation, ranking second overall for network modernization and broadband capability, according to a 2003 NERA Economic Consulting study, and third in fiber-optic cable deployment, according to 2003 Federal Communications Commission reports.
Currently, DSL high-speed Internet service is available on approximately 80 percent of Verizon's Pennsylvania phone lines. Verizon has invested more than $8.5 billion in its Pennsylvania network over the last 10 years. This year alone, the company expects to make Verizon Online DSL service available on about 187,000 additional telephone lines across the Keystone State.
"Verizon and the state's other local telephone companies are making broadband services available to customers who want them," said O'Rourke. "House Bill 30 will enable us to finish the job, with its requirement of 100-percent broadband deployment by 2015 - a mandate no other state currently requires."
The bill provides over $40 million in services and discounts directly to schools to make broadband available to all students in the commonwealth. Annually, up to $5 million will be available to educate communities about broadband and to aggregate demand for such service. Overall, up to $100 million in new benefits will flow to Pennsylvania's communities.
The bill establishes several economic development programs that will further facilitate broadband deployment throughout the state.
"House Bill 30 provides the right incentives and mechanisms to foster telecom competition, accelerate broadband deployment to meet customers' needs and stimulate economic development," said O'Rourke. "We will continue to invest in broadband as aggressively as we can to help Pennsylvania become a national leader in technology deployment and telecom policy."
In addition to its comprehensive broadband deployment provisions, House Bill 30 keeps phone rates affordable for residential customers, capping at the rate of inflation potential rate increases on services like basic local dial tone and usage. The bill offers automatic notification about the Lifeline program for persons enrolling in low-income programs. The bill also allows Lifeline customers to subscribe to an unlimited number of other telecom services, like call waiting or caller ID.
"This bill recognizes the ongoing changes in our industry and provides for fair and open competition for all broadband providers," said O'Rourke. "House Bill 30 brings the recently expired Chapter 30 statute in line with the competitive marketplace and creates a framework that encourages investment, innovation and risk-taking by the state's telecommunication providers."
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. With a diverse work force of approximately 208,000, Verizon has four business units: Domestic Telecom serves customers based in 29 states with wireline telecommunications services, including broadband, nationwide long-distance and other services. Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 42.1 million voice and data customers across the United States. Information Services operates directory publishing businesses and provides electronic commerce services. International includes wireline and wireless operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.