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Riley to Introduce Bill to Promote Rural Telecommunications Near Nuclear Power Plants

Bill Part of Riley’s Continued Effort to Improve Telecommunication in Locales such as Cumberland County

(3rd Legislative District) – Assemblywoman Celeste Riley on Friday announced she will be introducing legislation requiring the Board of Public Utilities to adopt service quality standards for telephone utility companies located within 10 miles of nuclear electric generating facilities.
The legislation to be introduced Monday follows a May 9 public hearing initiated by the BPU to review Verizon’s service in rural areas such as Greenwich and Stow Creek in Cumberland County. During the hearing, Riley testified on the serious implications a poor telecommunication infrastructure has for local businesses and residents within all New Jersey rural communities.
“These are vulnerable areas,” said Riley (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Rural communities should not be overlooked. In fact, in many cases they should be considered a top priority for service from the state and area service providers. The availability of communications by telephone for those who live or work in areas near nuclear power facilities is necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of those residents and workers during periods of emergency.”
The bill requires the BPU to adopt service quality standards by which a telephone utility located within a 10-mile radius of a nuclear electric generating facility in New Jersey must maintain its equipment and facilities to ensure safe, adequate and proper telephone service at all times.
“Rural communities throughout the state are underserved and at a considerable disadvantage,” Riley said. “Something needs to be done to remedy this disserve. Not only am I concerned about the employment and educational opportunities for these residents, but I am concerned about their safety.”
Specifically, the service quality standards, as detailed in the bill, shall apply to a telephone utility without exception, regardless of seasonality, weather, work stoppage, accident, sabotage, acts of God or nature or any other reason.
The board may, however, after investigation, suspend application of any provision of this section for periods of emergency, catastrophe, natural disaster, severe storm or other extraordinary events beyond the control of the telephone utility.
Riley also recently introduced a bill (A-2768) that would direct the BPU to require telecommunications companies and companies that offer Voice Over Internet Protocol and other Internet-based telephone services, on a prorated basis, to adjust a customer’s bill, or provide a refund to a customer, who has experienced a service interruption for a period of more than 24 hours.