Two rural Atlantic County towns will get upgraded phone and internet service through Verizon’s fiber-optic network, but officials in other towns say the technology is not being distributed widely enough in South Jersey.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, said Estell Manor and Weymouth Township in 2017 will get Verizon FiOS, which is replacing copper-based landline phone systems in parts of the state.
Van Drew called deployment of the technology “critical for this region.”
But the recent announcement did little to appease towns complaining for years their residents and businesses were reporting unreliable service.
Greg Facemyer, a committeeman in Hopewell Township in Cumberland County, said he wishes the issue was viewed regionally and not on a town-by-town basis. The fiber-optic network, which allows for high-speed internet, is prevalent in the northern part of the state but less so in rural South Jersey communities.
“We suffer here in South Jersey,” he said. “It’s just not fair.”
Residents testified about landline and internet problems at a Board of Public Utilities hearing in August after about 16 municipalities in Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties petitioned the BPU regarding the service. A 17th municipality later joined.
People who testified at the hearing suggested unreliable service can negatively affect businesses, families, students and public safety.
Facemyer even said a constituent told him a home sale fell through because potential buyers backed out due to the internet speed.
Van Drew said the goal is to provide South Jersey with full fiber-optic coverage. The recent announcement is a good first step, he said.
Verizon has previously sent a letter to the BPU outlining service-upgrade plans for customers in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties.
“I want to thank Verizon for following through on its commitment to work with residents and to make improvements,” Van Drew said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with the company and the Board of Public Utilities on improving services for residents, but ultimately to reaching the goal of FiOS deployment throughout the region.”
A BPU spokesman said the agency cannot comment because the matter is before the board.