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Verizon Communications is being sued by customers frustrated when it took weeks or months to get their high-speed Internet access installed. The class-action effort is an attempt to stop Verizon from signing new subscribers as well as to force compensation of existing customers. The complaint, filed this week in Superior Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Verizon was aware that it would be unable to provide high-speed service as promised and knew that its customers would experience significant disruptions and significant delays in obtaining technical support. The claim alleges that Verizon signs up over 3,000 new customers per day while knowing that the company cannot support so many. Verizon spokesman Larry Plum said Wednesday that the company had not seen the complaint and would not comment on it specifically, but that Verizon is working hard to satisfy customers. “The industry is only a couple years old, it uses a very sophisticated technology, and it’s seen rapid growth with the attendant stress and strain,” Plum said. “At Verizon we support DSL, we continue to support DSL, and we stand behind the service.” DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line, and, like cable modems, provide much faster Internet access than through traditional phone lines. Plum said that the company has about 540,000 high-speed Internet subscribers and deals with irate customers on a case-by-case basis, sometimes offering refunds. Problems with obtaining and maintaining DSL connections are legendary, and the complaint cites media accounts of horror stories. “These problems are so severe that entire Web sites are dedicated to airing grievances about Verizon DSL,” Gary E. Mason, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said Wednesday. “Verizon is acutely aware of these service interruptions and service delays, yet has failed to disclose these problems to current and potential customers.” The BellAtlanticPathetic.com Web site, now VerizonComplaints.com, lists many customer gripes, including some messages allegedly from Verizon employees complaining that the service has been oversold. The suit quotes Verizon ads claiming reliable service, such as the company saying, “when you want to go online to work or to play, you’ll be able to. Guaranteed.” Plaintiffs Bruce and Leslie Forrest say in the suit that they signed up for the service in August. After calls to technical support, long hold times and service calls, the Forrests canceled their service in frustration in December. While the suit does not list specific monetary damages, the class members could receive several hundred dollars in compensation for their problems, Mason said. “There are customers out there who have had months of delay or significant disruptions,” Mason said. “If the cost is $40 a month, people would expect to get some credit of that because they’re not getting what they’re paying for.” Other companies offering DSL service have been the target of class-action suits as well, including Southwestern Bell and BellSouth. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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