The point? It's not fair.

Across the country, rural areas are falling further behind the rest of the country when it comes to connection speeds. That means that all the new technologies being developed to bring our world closer together will leave large swaths of our own country out in the cold. Take the trouble brewing in the Green Mountain State. If Verizon has its way, Vermont’s telephone and internet provider will soon become FairPoint Communications--a giant step back in terms of internet connectivity options for customers.

The $3 billion dollar deal announced on January 16th, expected to also impact Maine and New Hampshire, has significant repercussions. The bottom line: Verizon is abandoning its commitment to serving rural New England.

In particular, members of CWA and IBEW are concerned that FairPoint won’t be able to provide adequate service to thousands of customers in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine:

  • FairPoint has not made any commitments about DSL rollout or introduction of fiber lines to replace older copper.
  • FairPoint’s business model means that the company is burdened with very high debt. It’s a risky strategy that limits much-needed capital investment. It also leaves significant uncertainty about whether prices will rise or quality of service fall.
  • Existing contracts for Verizon’s employees expire in 2008, and will need to be re-negotiated with the new owners. FairPoint has made no commitments to add jobs related to quality of service.
  • Verizon and FairPoint are beginning this deal with very little transparency, withholding key information.

Local citizens--including union members--are fighting back. CWA members are using materials like this in-depth report on the FairPoint merger (PDF) to lobby members of the Vermont house and build an organized, grassroots campaign to spread the word about the negative impacts of the sale.

As an IBEW organizer explains why outraged citizens are taking a stand against FairPoint and Verizon:

"We don't want the state to get bullied by a big corporation with a ton of money to come in here and buy full page ads and to go out and buy dinner for the right people," IBEW business manager Brackett said.

"We don't want that to happen," he said. "We want our legislators and our elected people to realize the constituents care."

Stop-the-Sale.org, a joint project of CWA and IBEW locals in New England, is the online center-of-gravity around the issue.

It’s time for Verizon to realize that speed matters for rural America. By going forward with the sale of over 1.5 million lines to FairPoint Communications, Verizon is sending the opposite message; it is sanctioning unfair and unreliable access to the information superhighway. New Englanders will not stand for this kind of high-speed discrimination – the fight has just begun.

We'll be following the issue closely.

CWA's White Paper on the proposed sale

Manchester Union-Leader Article

Stop-the-Sale.org