Verizon strike leaves GW students stranded

The backlog of orders resulting from a strike at Verizon Communication has left many students and Foggy Bottom residents without phones for the beginning of the school year.

Verizon, the nation’s largest telecommunications employer, settled a strike last week by more than 86,000 employees that lasted 18 days in 12 eastern states and the District. The company is a conglomeration of three communications companies – Bell Atlantic, Nynex and GTE – that merged this year.

Residents of the newly-created Scholars’ Village, a row of University-owned townhouses on 22nd Street, have not had phone or internet service since the beginning of the year. Service takes longer in townhouses because they require more wiring to complete voice and data connectivity, officials said.

The Community Living and Learning Center, which handles on-campus housing, distributed cell phones to students living in the Scholars’ Village to alleviate communication problems.

Residents of the houses said CLLC’s remedy was a good one.

The University gave one cell phone and one ricochet modem for six girls in our house, said sophomore Shannon Lia, a resident of Scholars’ Village. It hasn’t been so much of an inconvenience.

Students were told the University will pay all bills on the cell phone, including long distance, Lia said.

We are really grateful that the University has done all they can to help us out, she said.

Scholars’ Village has experienced order-processing delays because it is a new project, giving it the least resources, said Jennifer Bevacqua-delaConcepcion, associate director of Telecommunications for GW Information Systems and Services.

There’s a team working on it, she said. Things are fairly normal now.

Other than minimal problems in the West End and Dakota residence halls, which are served by Verizon phone lines, few on-campus locations have been affected by the strike, Bevacqua-delaConcepcion said.

Phone service for most University buildings operates from the University’s own network of lines.

The backlog of service resulting from the strike has created a small crisis for others.

Some students living off campus have been without service for weeks.

My cell is the only phone I have now, senior Anjan Choudhury said. My bills have tripled and this month I’ll have a $400 bill.

Verizon officials told Choudhury that service cannot be restored until Sept. 21 unless there is a medical emergency, Choudhury said.

People can’t even call up to the room from the call box, he said.

Verizon officials could not be reached for comment.

Sophomore Shari Cooperman said she made an appointment with Verizon well in advance to install a phone Aug. 10.

They never came and they didn’t notify us, Cooperman said.

When I call (Verizon) I can’t get through, usually, said Cooperman, who lives in Colombia Plaza. But if I do, I speak to somebody who says they can’t get service out until December because of problems with the facilities.

Many students said they have been forced to purchase cell phones as a result of the strike.

Sophomore Brian Kirrane ordered phone service from Verizon for Aug. 12, but no one came that day.

I tried to call every other day but I couldn’t get through, Kirrane said. I used pay phones.

Eventually Kirrane purchased a cell phone, because I had no idea how long it would last, he said. I was put in a position where I didn’t have much of a choice.

Lack of phone and internet connections are not the only problems created by disrupted telecommunications service. GWorld access to a new University building at 1922 F St. – a building that houses the new Career Center – is also inoperable because it requires a working phone line, said Michael Peller, GW’s managing director for Property Management and Real Estate.

The resetting of new voicemail in certain locations was also delayed, Bevacqua-delaConcepcion said.

Peller said Verizon has been in contact with the University and has outlined a schedule of work, which has been approved.

GW is an important customer for Verizon, so it will escalate its help, Peller said.

Verizon is working 18 days behind schedule, so it will take about that long (to catch up), Bevacqua-delaConcepcion said. They are trying to accommodate us, but their first priority is health emergencies.

For some students off campus, this promise affords little comfort.

This is a very frustrating situation, Choudhury said. I’m all for unions and workers rights, but other people are affected by this too.

Kirrane, whose service was finally restored Tuesday, is more relaxed. I understand that they were in a tough position, but there was nothing they could do, Kiranne said.

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