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Gray writes second letter to state about phone troubles

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MASSENA — After a Verizon phone service outage last summer, town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray sought answers from the state.

“It is time for New York State and its Public Service Commission to put an end to this situation, which seems to arise at least once a year,” Mr. Gray wrote to state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome.

With another year came another outage, and another letter, this time to Dierdre K. Scozzafava, deputy secretary of local government at the state Department of State.

“I would have called your office to speak with you directly, but I couldn’t because our telephone service was unavailable. In fact, that problem is the subject of this letter,” Mr. Gray wrote.

A phone service outage Thursday prompted Mr. Gray to seek answers from the state once again on phone service problems that have occurred three times since he took office less than three years ago. A cut fiber-optic line near Syracuse on Thursday disrupted service throughout the north country. Mr. Gray said he continued to experience phone problems Friday.

Verizon must improve its infrastructure to avoid outages caused by a cut line more than 100 miles away, or the Public Service Commission must hold the company accountable, Mr. Gray said.

“On behalf of the Town of Massena and thousands of other people across the north country, I am imploring you and your staff to help us correct this serious shortcoming in our telecommunication system,” he wrote.

“It is imperative that something be done to correct this perilous flaw before someone dies or is left with permanent disabilities because a call for emergency services did not get through our antiquated system.”

Mr. Gray said he sent the letter to Ms. Scozzafava because she understood the north country, and not to the Public Service Commission, becausehe was “not going to waste my time with those bozos.”

“The PSC is the most inappropriately named department,” he said.

“If you sit in downtown Albany every day with your feet on your desk, you don’t know what goes on in Northern New York and you don’t care.”

The PSC actually has been examining Verizon’s service record, according to spokesman James A. Denn. The commission has collected dozens of documents and public comments from 2010 to now, which can found on its website, pertaining to Verizon service throughout the state.

“The commission is very much aware of service quality issues for certain Verizon customers,” Mr. Denn said. “It commenced a proceeding to examine the different options that might be available.”

There is not yet a timetable for when the PSC will stop collecting information and reach a decision, he said.

“The commission staff is hard at work analyzing all the communication that is coming in,” he said.

Mr. Gray said he was not aware of the PSC’s examination of Verizon when he sent the letter, and called it “welcome news.” He said he hoped the PSC could concentrate particularly on the service problems in the north country, as the proceedings focus on a variety of issues.

“If it’s going back two years, one has to wonder when we’ll get a final determination,” he said. “I would hope it would be soon.”

Verizon spokesman John J. Bonomo praised his company’s staff for working diligently Thursday and Friday to identify the problem and fix it. An oversized truck near a Central Square housing development apparently pulled the line down, knocking out phone service.

Preventing that problem from occurring again is easier said than done and would require additional infrastructure, he said.

“It would take engineering and reprogramming to send circuits back another way and frankly, back another way that’s not already engineered,” he said. “I’m sure we will look at that. It’s not a simple matter to do that. ... It’s a very intricate and complex network we have.”

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