Voiceless and in the dark–new phone lines when power goes out

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The phone company sent Dan Gawel letters imploring him to allow technicians to replace the old copper phone lines at his home in West Seneca with new high capacity fiber optics—a move all the land line phone companies are making to keep up with the growing demands of digital communications.

Over the course of the last 50 years, telephone lines have gone from copper wire to coaxial cable to fiber optics which makes broadband Internet and digital phone service possible. Fiber optics is light years ahead of the old metal wires, but Gawel knew his copper wires did have an advantage, especially when the power went out.

“The power came from a central office to the phone. So if you lost house power, you pick up the phone, you still get dial tone and it would work.”

With the old copper lines, no power no problem, while the fiber optics lines require a battery backup to use the phone when the lights go out. But when Verizon changed Dan over to fiber he did not get the backup, neither did his elderly neighbor, who has a medical alert device that transmits through her phone during an emergency.

“She has a whole house generator,” Dan recalled, and when they had an outage recently, “her phone didn’t work, even with the whole house generator, and she just had it switched over from the land line copper to the fiber optic, too.”

Why doesn’t Dan have a battery backup? He said the technician told him there was no “battery tray” in the service truck when he installed the fiber optic phone line, and Dan has been calling Verizon since October to get the backup.

“He said, actually they should have sent the battery tray and batteries to me before he arrived here, which they did not do–I never received anything.”

Gawel even wrote a letter to Verizon’s corporate offices, to no avail. Fortunately he has a cell phone in case the power goes out. He just wants the battery tray, even if he has to install it himself, “It isn’t a complicated thing. Put it up, put a couple of screws in it, put the batteries in it, plug in the wire.”

A spokesperson with Verizon’s Office of Corporate Communications said it is unacceptable for Dan Gawel and his neighbor to have fiber optics phone lines without their battery backup. Verizon has contacted the West Seneca homeowner, and they are sending him a complete battery package–he said he can install it himself–and get Dan’s elderly neighbor her battery tray, too.

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