Editorial: A week without internet service is not acceptable

Sun, 03/31/2013 - 2:00pm

A number of Verizon customers on the island — the number most consistently heard was 200 — had no internet service beginning last week for up to six days. The police station was affected, as was the medical center. None of this is acceptable.

We know of one resident who was about to leave the island — computer in hand — heading to get it repaired. They probably never considered that service had been out for days and that it was not a malfunctioning laptop.

In this day and age, internet is an essential service for businesses and a lifeline communications tool for the vast majority of individuals.

We happen to be in March when our population is low. If this happened in July one can only imagine the impact on our economy.

Internet service as provided by Verizon has never been robust. There are areas of the island where service is spotty at best — or even nonexistent. Two years ago it was discovered that Verizon signed people up for high speed internet and billed for that service on a monthly basis although the promised speeds were not provided to those customers who signed up and paid for it. A number of customers demanded and received refunds totaling hundreds of dollars.

It appears that the local Verizon crew worked hard to restore service. Even so, it took almost a week, and Verizon needs to approach any blackout on the island with a sense of urgency and have resources at the ready to fix it. They need to take steps so that this unacceptable situation is not repeated.

Real estate agents will tell you that prospective renters now routinely seek assurance about internet service before renting a house. Many people require instant communication with employers even when on vacation. Internet service is more than a convenience issue. It has economic consequences and public safety ramifications.

In a bit of irony, it was also noted that Verizon customers received an email this week announcing a $5 increase to their monthly bill. The increase, the email said, was “in order to continue to bring you quality service.”

Verizon needs to get its act together.