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Our Opinion

Our Opinion: Unacceptable landline woes in the Berkshire town of Florida deserve more attention from Verizon

This is a collective call to Verizon: The landline telephone woes in an area that you serve are causing problems beyond just inconvenience for an entire Berkshire town.

Consider some of the concerns aired by Florida residents at a recent community meeting.

Senior Center Director Sue Oleson relayed an elderly resident’s harrowing experience when her landline’s spotty service couldn’t get her through to a 911 dispatcher. She went to the neighbors to use their landline, but theirs wasn’t working, either. She had to go door to door in search of a working phone in order to summon an ambulance during her husband’s medical emergency.

Another woman said her sister broke her leg at home but had to hobble to someone else’s house to call for help.

One family shared the difficulty of staying connected when the husband whose job requires travel can’t even get in touch with his loved ones at home.

A working mother said that she has her children call her to check in when they get home from school, which they can’t do when the phones are out. “I tried calling them again and again, and couldn’t get ahold of them,” she said. “So I had to drive home to check on them. Then drive back to work. That’s an hour and a half on the road when there is work to do, because the phones don’t work.”

To make matters worse for these folks who too often struggle to reach someone in a time of need, they’re also having trouble reaching Verizon for some answers. The telecom company was invited to send a representative to the community meeting, but none showed up. Meanwhile, Verizon never responded to an Eagle reporter’s multiple messages seeking comment. State Rep. John Barrett III, who represents the town of Florida on Beacon Hill, signaled his own frustration with Verizon’s apparent nonreaction to a problem affecting hundreds of households.

“There’s no excuse for this, and it’s got to be fixed,” Rep. Barrett told The Eagle last week. “[Verizon] said they’re not even aware of it.”

The lawmaker said he has also been pushing for Verizon to improve their cell coverage in Berkshire County, which would be great for this rural community and others. At a bare minimum, though, Florida residents — who are paying their Verizon bills just to be underserved and ignored — should be able to expect such basic amenities like landlines to be in working order. That’s especially critical in emergencies when seconds count, but it’s also important for daily life in a town with spotty cellular and broadband service as well as a high percentage of elderly residents.

Yes, this is a rural area where the geography makes systemic improvements more difficult and the small population represents a drop in the bucket of this telecom giant’s market share. Nevertheless, we wholeheartedly agree with Rep. Barrett that these factors do not excuse the failure to meet the bare minimum of decent corporate citizenship. It’s bad enough to slow-walk line upgrades that are needed to provide the expected service to Florida’s residents. It’s even worse to offer only static on the other end of the line when an entire community wonders if and when these serious issues will be meaningfully addressed.

Can you hear us now, Verizon? Florida deserves better than this. Please return this urgent call.

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