Consumers, elected officials, union members call on Verizon to stop stalling at NYC Council hearing
At a press conference and New York City Council hearing today, consumers, elected officials, advocates and union members called on Verizon to build out its high-speed FiOS network, as the company promised to do when it got a lucrative television franchise in 2008. The City’s damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet the terms of its franchise agreement, which requires the FiOS network to be available to any household that requests service by June 2014.
Currently, thousands of street blocks cannot get any service at all. Millions of New Yorkers cannot get FiOS service, leaving them dependent on their cable company for TV and internet service. The Council’s hearing, conducted jointly by three committees, put further pressure on Verizon to build FiOS throughout the City as required by the City’s franchise agreement.
“I have been living in Rego Park since early 2014 and have been eager to get FiOS service in my apartment, like many of my neighbors. We are now limited to Time Warner, and they keep raising prices whenever they choose,” said Robert Kaufman. “Every time I’ve called Verizon over the last 18 months, they’ve told me FiOS will be here in ‘six months.’ But I’m still waiting.”
“I’ve gotten signatures from hundreds of small business owners like myself looking for FiOS,”added Ernie Goldman, who owns a business on the Bowery. “It’s been two years, and still no high-speed alternatives. Verizon should stop stalling.”
Examples of Verizon’s failure to deliver service include:
· All of Broadway from 135th Street to 219th Street, except for one building that was once a Verizon building between 213th and 214th Streets. On this 84 block-long stretch of Broadway, there are about 10 buildings total that get the FiOS network on the street blocks directly East and West of Broadway.
145th Street has no service from the Harlem to Hudson Rivers, except for 1 or 2 buildings.
17th Street from 1st Avenue to the Hudson River has no service except for 1 or 2 buildings.
Co-Op City in the Bronx and Starrett City in Brooklyn do not have service.
In Sunnyside, there is no service in on the blocks that are between from 30thStreet and 49th Street and 47th Avenue and either the Long Island Expressway (LIE) or 50th Avenue.
In Jackson Heights, there is no FiOS service from 69th Street to 89th Street between Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue.
Throughout the City, there are blocks or large parts of neighborhoods without service. Service is especially difficult to get in Chinatown, Washington Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Jackson Heights, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Sunnyside among other areas.
In a recent investigation Council staff found that Verizon call center representatives did not offer an explanation for a lack of service or any estimate of when service would be available.
“We plan to take a thorough examination of the work Verizon has completed under this contract, as well as the work they continue to complete moving forward,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Verizon is keeping its promise to all New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs.”
“Earlier this year the federal government made sure that throughout our country access to the internet was treated as a public utility,” said Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. “Yet, months later because of a lack of competition, prices are still on the rise. Verizon FIOS promised New Yorkers that they would give residents in neighborhoods like the ones I represent, Washington Heights and Inwood, a new option for internet access but they have failed. Instead they continue to benefit from the franchise agreement they’ve signed with the city while failing to uphold their end of the bargain. We must come together to hold Verizon accountable. I am a proud member of a broad coalition of advocates, unions, and elected working towards more equitable access to the internet.”
"Verizon promised the City fast broadband, but instead the company has spent seven years dragging its feet and breaking its contract," said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. "Verizon needs to stop stalling and start installing."
“We’ve heard from literally hundreds of our members in New York City. So many are frustrated because they cannot get FiOS and want the competitive choice between providers for broadband and phone that the FiOS franchise agreement held out,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “We are encouraged by the DoITT Audit and today’s City Council hearing. Common Cause/NY urges the de Blasio Administration and the City Council to continue to vigorously perform their oversight role and bring a competitive telecom marketplace to New York City residents.”
“In its 2008 agreement with the City, Verizon agreed to build the FiOS network to all New York households that want the service by mid-2014,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of the Communications Workers of America – District One. “Today, thousands of street blocks and large parts of many neighborhoods do not have any service, leaving millions of New Yorkers without access to FiOS. Instead of trying to reduce its workforce by eliminating job security, Verizon should be hiring more workers here in New York City to ensure every household can get FiOS.”
“We’ve received literally dozens of stories from New York City consumers who are frustrated that FiOS is still not available where they live,” said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union. “We are also very concerned that New York City’s audit of the Verizon franchise agreement found that Verizon did a poor job of logging and following up on inquiries from prospective customers. We urge the de Blasio administration and the City Council to hold Verizon’s feet to the fire to rapidly complete the FiOS buildout, so all city residents can finally have a choice of at least one alternate provider for internet and cable service.”
As a result of its franchise agreement with Verizon, New York City surrendered the right to regulate basic cable rates, since the FCC deemed the New York City market to be “competitive” because of Verizon’s entry into the market. Yet in reality, head-to-head competition is sharply limited because of Verizon’s failure to live up to the terms of the franchise.
The hearing comes days after the Communications Workers of America (CWA) launched a TV ad on local broadcast and cable channels slamming Verizon’s broken promises. The 30-second ad highlights a New York City audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City that found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it [video file can be viewed here].
CWA launches new and expanded apprenticeship and training initiatives, millions in investments to grow and diversify workforce ahead of nationwide broadband expansion