Lakewood residents, citing religion, ask Verizon to rethink 5G upgrades
LAKEWOOD — Verizon is looking to upgrade its wireless service with faster 5G technology. But some township residents, who for religious reasons still prefer old-fashioned flip-phones, are saying not so fast.
An online petition was posted asking Verizon to reconsider their decision to phase out 3G service in Lakewood because many residents don't wish to upgrade their phones that require 4G and 5G towers.
The petition is not opposed to Verizon upgrading its network. But it asks the utility to "continue to upkeep their local 3G towers as long as it is feasible to do so."
Verizon said in a statement that they would support their 3G (EVDO) network through the end of the decade. But the company has spent $5.4 billion in New Jersey since 2015 on upgrading their network to 4G and laying the groundwork for 5G.
"Lakewood, NJ, boasts a large demographic of Orthodox Jews," Yitzy Stern wrote in the petition. "Many of them abstain from using smartphones, with the objective to avoid the immorality and culture that has become synonymous with the internet. Verizon has a large customer base in Lakewood that uses flip-phones, the vast majority of which utilize the 3G network."
Verizon spokesman David Weissman said the networks that a phone can operate on is dependent on the cellular radios that are put in the phone when it is manufactured. If a phone is described as 3G, it likely doesn't also include a 4G radio.
4G is 10 times faster than 3G and that allows smartphones to run faster with more streaming capacity.
When 4G was introduced to consumers, it maintained backward compatibility to 3G. But a 5G network won't have that same compatibility.
Weissman said that not upgrading the network would essentially turn their phones into walkie-talkies that couldn't be used outside of Lakewood as 3G networks are phased out.
"We are actively working with our customers to help ensure any transition needs are addressed as early as possible. The best experience for customers is on a 4G device," Verizon said in a statement.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include that the petition is not opposed to Verizon upgrading its network with 4G and 5G technology.