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Verizon Says Don't Blame Us

Verizon Communications, Inc. , raised the stakes against its longtime legal nemesis Covad Communications Group, Inc. Tuesday by filing a lawsuit accusing Covad of falsifying more than 22,000 trouble reports in a "blatant and orchestrated" attempt to shift blame for its DSL installment problems to Verizon. While Covad competes with Verizon to provide DSL service, the competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) uses Verizon's telephone lines and networks to provide the service.

The suit contains a number of affidavits by former Covad employees who claim they were told by supervisors to file reports blaming Verizon even when Verizon was not at not fault. The former employees, who were sought out by Verizon, also claim they were poorly trained and frequently did not have the proper equipment.

In a Washington, D.C., press conference Tuesday morning, Verizon further charged the Santa Clara-based Covad with an "intentional campaign of lies and distortions designed to deceive the public and regulators and to shift its operating costs and blame for its own problems to Verizon."

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, seeks unspecified damages and asks the court for injunctive relief against the alleged false service reports.

Dhruv Khanna, Covad co-founder, general counsel, and executive vice president was quick to "patently" deny all the charges in the Verizon suit.

"We consider this suit a harassment suit that thinly veils the fact that Verizon has a very poor service record and is inventing complaints to cover up its own ineptitude," said Khanna. "In fact, Verizon is currently a defendant in several antitrust suits and has lost harassment-style lawsuits to Covad in the past."

In the past year, Verizon has had to deal with a number of complaints about its DSL service, including a class action suit accusing the Baby Bell of deceiving consumers about installation problems.

The New York-based Verizon and Covad are familiar legal combatants in both the courtroom and at regulatory hearings. Verizon recently lost a patent suit to Covad and was the subject of 1999 antitrust suit filed by Covad. At regulatory hearings, Covad has attempted to keep Verizon from entering the DSL market. Verizon is appealing the patent decision.

"Covad has a strong reputation for high quality customer service and continues to work with all ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers) to get DSL installed to any home or business that qualifies for the service. Our employees are honest and work hard to get the customer's installation complete in as fast a time as possible, often having to overcome ILEC support and provisioning issues," said Khanna. "Never are they instructed to falsely blame a phone company for any portion of installation and provisioning service issues. In fact, it is not in our best interests to open up false 'trouble tickets' or service problem orders as we are required to pay ILECs for trouble tickets that prove to be our fault."