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Comcast Tees Up Upgrades, New Services for Jersey Shore Subs

As part of a campaign to “Welcome Back” customers to the Jersey Shore, Comcast said Wednesday that it has upgraded 144 miles of plant that was hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy last October and is bulking up staffing levels and preparing to launch a new set of services there as customers return to the area this summer.

Comcast said it is opening newly-renovated service centers, adding weekend hours, and deploying more than 170 service techs to help with installs and network maintenance in shore areas starting May 25. The MSO, citing competitive reasons, declined to disclose the number of residences its Freedom Region serves along the Jersey Shore.

The MSO is also offering customers in the area access to its new cloud-based X1 video service, its new souped-up DOCSIS 3.0 wireless gateways, and its Xfinity Home security/automation service. Comcast has also committed to install “thousands” of additional Wi-Fi hot-spots in the area. The MSO has already installed more than 55,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in several areas, including Philadelphia, the New Jersey Shore, San Francisco, and Ocean City, Md.

Comcast will also run a Welcome Back advertising campaign, including TV, radio and print messaging, and host dozens of movie nights and other weekend events in shore towns will reach customers with specia

"We know that Hurricane Sandy complicated life for millions of people, and many of our employees and facilities were affected by the storm," said LeAnn Talbot, senior vice president of Comcast's Freedom Region, in a statement. "We were here for the Jersey Shore during and immediately after Sandy, we have been here to support since then and will remain as a partner tomorrow and beyond as people and communities work to rebuild."

Verizon Communications, meanwhile, confirmed a report by DSL Reports that the telco does not intend to replace or upgrade copper plant that was washed away by the storm.

Instead, it is offering customers in those areas the option to use Voice Link, a wireless-based residential phone service that costs $22 to $30 per month, depending on the market, and includes some enhancements such as unlimited domestic long distance and caller ID. Voice Link uses the Verizon Wireless cellular network in tandem with a small home-side device that brings dial tone to the home’s existing phone jacks.

Verizon developed the alternative Voice Link product before Sandy, a spokesman said, noting that the company has had a program underway since 2011 to migrate voice services to fiber in areas where customers are having “chronic problems” with their copper-based service. He confirmed that Verizon moved about 250,000 such customers from copper to fiber last year. He also said Verizon has no plans to implement fiber upgrades in areas where Sandy all but destroyed the legacy copper network in part because there’s little business justification to do so in areas where most customers live only part-time.

“Voice Link offered us a way to get voice service back to customers who had been impacted by the storm,” including barrier islands such as Fire Island, the spokesman said, noting that affected customers can obtain broadband service through other sources, including wireless or satellite.

About 300 customers impacted by Sandy are currently on the Voice Link product, the spokesman said, adding that the wireless alternative “is just as reliable or more reliable” than copper-based voice services.