Ever hear of Verizon's Home Phone Connect? It's been on sale in New York and New Jersey or in trials since 2010 and it is essentially the exact same box called Voice Link that Verizon has been telling everyone is supposed to be only used for replacing damaged wires from the recent Sandy Storm.
It is now clear that Verizon has essentially been gaming the New York State Attorney General's Office and the Department of Public Service, making fools of every regulator, every state commission, and even the FCC and -- well, America.
Over the last few months, there has been a rising bru-ha-ha about a wireless product called Voice Link, which was supposedly designed to replace a landline with a wireless device where the copper has been damaged. Verizon's Tom Maguire stated: "Verizon developed Voice Link to take advantage of wireless technology to address voice customers served on the copper network who have had chronic repairs issues."
As we wrote, Verizon filed with New York State Department of Public Service to do a test of Voice Link in a part of Fire Island. According to Verizon, the old copper wires were damaged during the Sandy storm and instead of fixing these wires the company has decided to simply put customers on wireless products, which have shown to be seriously inferior or very expensive.
Voice Link is essentially a 1990's styled cell phone that attaches to the customer's wall. It can't do basic data applications that have always been available on POTS, Plain Old Telephone Service. It can't handle faxes, dial up Internet service, credit card processing or even supply reliable E911 as a POTS line delivers.
Click here for a chart of Voice Link vs. POTS.
Meanwhile, before the ink was dry on the agreement to just do a test, the unions and others started explaining how Verizon had been pushing Voice Link onto customers that were, well, fixable throughout the State -- and the New York Attorney General claimed Verizon was in violation of their state agreements.
And at the same time Verizon filed with the FCC to 'discontinue' the obligations in parts of New York and New Jersey that were hit by Sandy.
Home Phone Connect
But then we find this from February 2011:
"Verizon just began trials of its Home Phone Connect service in New York and Connecticut in December, but it looks like its already ironed out any kinks there might have been, as it has now made the service available across the entire U.S."
"It... will let you make calls using any old landline phone that's connected to the Home Phone Connect base station... "
Multiple techies have confirmed that this is essentially the same device as Voice Link. In fact, the only difference appears to be that Home Phone Connect is sold by Verizon Wireless while Voice Link is the name when it is sold by the state-based utility, such as Verizon, New York.
And Home Phone Connect and Voice Link are clearly the same box as Home Phone Connect has the exact same problems -- they both can't handle data services, which is probably why it hasn't been selling well.
"What are the device incompatibles? Home Phone Connect is not compatible with home security systems, fax machines, DVR services, credit card machines, or medical alert services (e.g. Life Alert). HSI/DSL may or may not be available."
Here's the manual for the device.
AT&T Wireless Home Phone
"The AT&T Wireless Home Phone provides home phone calling service using your existing cordless phone or standard home phone equipment. The service is powered by a device that allows you to complete calls using the AT&T wireless network instead of a landline connection."
And AT&T Wireless Home Phone has identical problems.
"Unsupported services. AT&T Wireless Home Phone may not be compatible with all services including home security systems, fax machines, dial-up internet service, DVR services, medical alert services (e.g. Life Alert), or credit card machines. The service cannot be used to make 500, 700, 900, 976, 0+ collect, operator assisted, or dial around calls (e.g., 1010-XXXX)."
And even the caveats and the wording for AT&T's product is virtually the same as Verizon's products.
This replacement of the wires has been in the industry discussion since 2007. Network World in 2010 wrote:
"The business model and pricing are similar to those launched by T-Mobile back in June 2007 with its T-Mobile @home service; however, T-Mobile discontinued sales of its wireless service earlier this year. Interestingly, the U. S. Government's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study in May 2010 reporting that one in four callers have "cut the cord, " substituting their mobile phone for wired home phone service. Whether Verizon Wireless will be able to succeed with this approach where T-Mobile did not will be for the market to decide."
And Telecompetitor in 2011 made clear that this is driven by profits and by Verizon Wireless, which now appears to be in charge of who does and who does not get upgraded.
"It's an interesting move by Verizon Wireless. One that they hope allows them to continue to squeeze out margin from their wireless facilities. As Verizon and other wireless providers shift to 4G networks, which are data centric for both voice and broadband, their legacy 2G and 3G networks are still available for voice capacity. By marketing a voice only wireline replacement service, they are in effect leveraging that legacy voice capacity for additional margin. A handsome margin I would assume. As a result, I suspect we'll see more infringement on the declining wireline voice business from hungry wireless providers looking to leverage their legacy wireless voice networks."
To add insult to injury, Verizon has created a group of "Lifestyle bloggers" who get equipment and trips, among other perks to write about Verizon products. In April 2013 -- while the Fire Island issues and other arguments were being made to shut down the wires, Verizon is out there explaining how Home Phone Connect was to replace landlines. One Verizon Lifestyles blogger wrote:
"Recently I attended an event in NYC for the Verizon Wireless Lifestyle Blogger program. We were introduced to Home Phone Connect, A way to replace your home phone company with Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless offered us the chance to try it out and I was excited to do so".
The bottom line -- Verizon and AT&T had plans in place to close down the networks for years and it is being driven by Verizon Wireless - not the needs of customers.
Moreover, did Verizon mislead and deceive the regulators about their intentions, claiming Voice link was for emergencies when it is for more profits to the shareholders without giving a damn about customers?