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NEWARK, N.J. - The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities today approved a new regulatory plan for Verizon that significantly expands Lifeline Service, the discounted local phone service for eligible low-income and elderly residents.
Verizon's plan has been the subject of extensive public hearings since it was filed with the board in February 2001.
The plan increases the maximum Lifeline monthly discount from $9.50 to $13 and also provides for automatic enrollment of many eligible persons, self-certification, wider eligibility and expanded education and outreach.
The plan also includes a commitment from Verizon to provide $55 million in telecommunications equipment and facilities to deliver advanced technology to the state's K-12 schools and public libraries.
The plan continues the current, lowest-in-the-nation rates for basic residential local phone service, rates that have not changed since 1985. It also recognizes the intense competition for business services. The plan allows Verizon to operate under more of the same rules that apply to other companies providing telecommunications services to businesses in the state.
"The plan responds to the profound changes in New Jersey's telecommunications marketplace, which is becoming increasingly competitive," said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey. "As that competition continues to grow, this plan offers a clear path for continuing the orderly transition from the regulated services of a bygone era to an ever-increasing array of competitive, market-priced offerings."
The plan goes into effect July 1, but changes to the Lifeline program become effective in March. 2003. Other highlights of the plan include:
- Strengthening Verizon's service quality commitments to all New Jersey consumers by adding several new measurements to the state's already stringent requirements; and
- Reclassifying certain multi-line business services as competitive and applying the same rules for approving new services for all providers, instead of the separate and unequal process that now applies only to Verizon's requests.
The $55 million in commitments for telecommunications equipment and facilities will continue and enhance Access New Jersey (ANJ), Verizon's agreement with the state to provide data and video services for K-12 schools and libraries. The funding will go to:
- Career Academies, a state initiative that will offer on-site programs to high school students, and for state police training facilities.
- Special customer premises equipment used to access high-speed services and additional gear used for video services. Verizon already has provided over $34 million in equipment and has connected more than 2,300 schools and public libraries in the state to its advanced telecommunications network.
- Additional support and expansion of interactive video services for K-12 students. In 2000, Verizon became the first local phone company to offer a video gateway, which enables New Jersey schools to hold live, interactive classes for students statewide without incurring long-distance charges. More than 200 schools have registered to use the video portal.
- Even greater savings for schools and libraries on availability of special rates that continue until the end of 2014. Schools and libraries may apply for federal discounts ranging from 20 to 90 percent on top of the special rates.
Bone noted that since 1993 Verizon has invested $7.6 billion in its telecommunications network and support systems serving New Jersey. Last year, Verizon invested more than $1.06 billion in the Garden State.
"No other corporation has invested as much in our state or done more to keep our citizens and our economy competitive in the Internet Age," said Bone "The plan continues Verizon's commitment to foster growth and competition, helps answer the needs of seniors and others who need a helping hand, expands advanced services to schools and libraries, while maintaining the nation's most affordable telephone service."
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 133.8 million access line equivalents and approximately 29.6 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and nearly 248,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.