Following hard on the heels of class actions recently filed against Verizon, a group of Big Apple lawyers, consultants, ISPs and new-media workers are organizing a protest summit against the phone company, which they say has hurt their businesses with poor Net service.
The group, which includes some long-time bitter Bell company critics, is looking for ways to use the business communities' weight to push Verizon into improving service, with aims of drawing up a "Broadband bill of rights."
"The idea is to coalesce all the persons that have been affected by this situation and make more people realize that there is a bigger public affected," said Joe Plotkin, director of DSL marketing for Net service provider Bway.net and a director of the U.S. ISP Association. "The impact is wider than is appreciated at the moment."
The grumbling about slow or intermittent service, botched installs, and simple unavailability of the telephone companies' DSL (digital subscriber line) services are growing around the country. Verizon isn't alone as the target of complaints, but the company has been sued several times by angry subscribers.
Web sites with names like BellAtlanticPathetic.com, detailing scores of complaints about service, are now common online.
Plotkin's group, which is holding its meeting Feb. 5, is taking a slightly different direction than some of these other efforts, however.
Most of the online complaints and lawsuits have stemmed from customers who have faced repeated outages, a series of unsuccessful installations or other customer service issues.
But Plotkin and several of the members of the new group are echoing long-time criticisms from ISPs that the Bells are still muting high-speed competition, making it logistically difficult and financially impractical for smaller companies to offer DSL service despite federal laws requiring competition.
By bringing together disgruntled customers and would-be customers across New York's high-tech business community, the group hopes to win the ear of policy-makers at the state and national level.
A Verizon spokesman said that the criticisms ignored the relationship between the phone company, which owns the telephone lines used by the service, and the companies which actually sell the DSL to ISPs or individual customers.
"We're monitored by the New York public utilities commission," said spokesman Larry Plum. "We have a good rating in terms of delivery."