Verizon plan draws criticism in N.J.

January 10, 2008 4:16:00 PM PST
New Jersey consumers would pay higher rates under a deregulation plan offered by the state's major provider of local phone service. That's the opinion issued today by the state's consumer watchdog.

But Verizon Communications disputes that, saying it needs flexibility to compete against newcomers who aren't subject to regulation.

The Public Utilities Board will hear testimony next month on the requests by Verizon, which serves about 4 million landlines in New Jersey, and Embarq, which serves some towns in western Jersey.

In testimony filed today, Public Advocate rate counsel Stefanie Brand said rates for basic telephone service would increase significantly if the requests were approved.

Brand disputed Verizon's claim of competition for phone service, saying Verizon and Embarq provide 83 percent of the landline phone service to New Jersey residents.