Verizon Wireless Testifies Today On Proposed D.C. City Council Hands-Free Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC — Verizon Wireless participated today in a hearing before the Washington D.C. City Council's Committee of Public Works and provided the following statement in the matter of B14-0130: Mobile Telephone Driving Safety Act of 2001 and B14-0141: Responsible Use of Cell Phones Act of 2001.

The statement should be attributed to Thomas J. Curran, Verizon Wireless Director-Public Policy.

"Good Morning, Madam Chairperson and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on the matter of the responsible use of wireless phones. Verizon Wireless is the Nation's leading wireless service provider and a leader in advocating the responsible use of wireless phones while driving. We promote the use of hands-free devices in every facet of our business from marketing and sales to our customer communications and public policy initiatives.

"A wireless phone is an important safety tool. According to the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association, nearly 140,000 wireless emergency 911 calls are made daily on a national basis. Lives have no doubt been saved thanks to motorists using wireless phones.

"Verizon Wireless believes the best way to promote responsible driving is through the use of hands-free equipment.

"We appreciate the concern of this council in promoting the responsible use of wireless phones by motorists.

"If the council believes that legislation is necessary at this time, Verizon Wireless can support the key elements of Bill B14-0130.

"However, the bill lacks one key element we believe is essential - an adequate phase-in period to allow consumers and manufacturers to adapt to the new law.

"Verizon Wireless recommends that the bill be amended to include a phase-in period to allow time for customers to upgrade their phones to ensure hands-free capability.

"Many customers have wireless phones that do not have a "universal jack" to use a standard headset. In fact, may phones sold prior to 2000 cannot readily accept hands-free devices.

"A phase-in period would also allow customers time to upgrade their phones without untimely financial burden.

"Also, handset manufacturers need additional development time to make hands-free capability more widely available and affordable. Phones with voice dialing and speakerphone features are just now becoming available.

"In the recent debate on a hands-free bill in the state of New York, Verizon Wireless supported the key provisions of the bill but objected to the lack of a sufficient phase-in period.

"The bill was signed into law to take effect in New York in December. The lack of a phase-in period may lead to significant consumer frustration with policy makers for requiring them, in may cases, to purchase new phones to comply with the law.

"We recommend a three-year phase in as appropriate to allow for customer education and for customers to upgrade their wireless phone equipment without undue and untimely expense.

"We are willing to work with the council to ensure that a reasonable time period is given to consumers.

"Verizon Wireless has developed a responsible driver action plan that emphasizes our commitment to ensuring responsible driving practices by customers and employees.

"This plan includes:

  • Requiring manufacturers by 2002 to produce wireless phones with voice-activated dialing and a universal jack;

  • A "safety wall" in virtually all 1400 stores nationwide to showcase hands-free equipment;

  • Incorporating a responsible driving component in company advertising, customer communications and our Website;

  • Training sales and customer service teams about the importance of promoting hands-free devices;

  • Supporting legislation at the state level where the political will exists to require the use of hands-free devices while driving.

"Here in Washington, D.C., Verizon Wireless has worked with other carriers and the office of the mayor, department of motor vehicles (DMV) to provide materials to the public on the responsible use of phones.

"In addition, we have participated in DMV-sponsored safety fairs to showcase and promote responsible driving.

"We will continue to work with the District of Columbia government to find new ways to educate the public.

"Again, Verizon Wireless appreciates the significant step taken by this council, but requests that if and when the council determines that legislation is warranted, an appropriate phase-in period be added to the bill to allow customers time to adapt to the new requirements.

"Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you."

About Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the U.S. with more than 28 million wireless voice and data customers. The coast-to-coast wireless provider was formed by the combination of the U.S. wireless businesses of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD), including Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, GTE Wireless and PrimeCo Personal Communications. Verizon Wireless has a footprint covering more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, 49 of the top 50 and 97 of the top 100 U.S. markets. The company, headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, is 40,000 employees strong. Reporters and editors can find more information about the company on the Web at