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7/13/09

Verizon: Get Off The Home Phone Land Line

As reported in the Boston Herald:

Verizon Wireless is urging customers to “cut the cord” with their old-fashioned phone service - even though its corporate owner still has a large land-line business employing thousands of workers in Massachusetts and across the nation.

In an unusual move that’s left Verizon Communications Inc.’s union members steaming, Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest cell-phone carrier, launched several weeks ago a direct-mail blitz that encouraged customers to go all wireless in their homes.

“This is a great opportunity for you to cut down on costs by making your cell phone your only phone,” reads the sales pitch. “Disconnecting your home phone leaves you with one less bill to pay.”

A spokesman for Verizon Wireless, which is jointly owned by Verizon and Vodafone Corp., said the sales pitch was made to only Verizon Wireless customers - and the intent was to not include Verizon Communications’ copper-wire customers.

But Verizon Wireless spokesman Howard Waterman conceded some Verizon Communications customers may have gotten the flier by error.

The goal of the ad campaign was to try to “peel away” customers from cable companies and other phone companies that compete with Verizon, he said.

Yet union members weren’t buying Verizon Wireless’ arguments - and they said its corporate parent clearly wants to get out of the land-line business.

They noted that Verizon Communications, which owns 55 percent of Verizon Wireless, recently sold off its phone assets in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and that it’s trying to sell its land-line assets in 14 other states.

The work force for the older, copper-wire business is heavily unionized. Verizon Wireless is not heavily unionized, they added.

Verizon Communications now mostly touts its fast-growing FiOS fiber-optics TV, Internet and phone businesses. Its old land-line business declined by 12.2 percent last year.

Reflecting a trend throughout the telecom industry, about 20 percent of all American homes now are completely wireless for their phone service.

“The whole trend (for Verizon) is to dump anything to do with plain old phones,” said Paul Bouchard, a district representative for the Communications Workers of America.

Don Trementozzi, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1400, disputed Verizon Wireless’ assertion that intended to target only non-Verizon customers.

“Even I got one of the fliers at home,” said Trementozzi, whose union represents about 1,000 Massachusetts Verizon workers. “The ad campaign is real crazy. It’s a big mistake.”

Even if the ad was aimed at non-Verizon customers, it was still bad-mouthing a business that’s important to the general company and thousands of workers, other union members complained.

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