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CWA FCC Filing: Verizon Wireless deal widens digital divide

03 Jun, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The proposed deal between Verizon Wireless and Big Cable would disproportionally negatively impact people of color and lower income families, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said yesterday in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

CWA provided the Commission with FiOS deployment maps for the metropolitan areas of Boston, Baltimore, Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse in its filing. The maps show that Verizon has deployed FiOS in the more affluent suburbs but bypassed the major city in each of these metro regions.  The maps resemble a doughnut: FiOS deployment in the suburbs ringing a no-FiOS deployment hole in the urban center.  (The maps are based on FiOS availability data by zip code provided by Verizon on its web site.)

There are vast gaps in the poverty rates and median household incomes in these cities compared to the suburban areas that enjoy FiOS service:

  • In Boston, for example, areas without access to Verizon's FiOS service are home to 52 percent minority populations, compared with wealthier suburban areas with just 23 percent minority populations.
  • In Baltimore, areas without access to Verizon's FiOS service contain 72 percent minority populations, compared with wealthier suburban areas with 53 percent minority populations.
  • In Buffalo, areas without access to Verizon's FiOS service are comprised of 45 percent minority populations, compared with wealthier suburbs with just 5 percent minority populations.

CWA urged the FCC to adopt conditions if it moves forward with approval of the deal to promote continued investment in FiOS as a competitive alternative to cable, with the related benefits of more jobs, lower prices, and more robust consumer choice for video, broadband, voice, and wireless services.
Specifically, CWA urged the following conditions be imposed:

  • Prohibit Verizon Wireless and the cable companies from cross-marketing in Verizon's landline footprint.
  • Require Verizon to build the FiOS network to 95% of Verizon households in existing markets and increase FiOS buildout in rural and low-income areas.
  • Require that Verizon Wireless and other cable companies make the services they provide to each other and the intellectual property they develop under the agreements available to other competitors who request them, so that their marketing alliance cannot lock out competitors.

In the face of mounting public concern over the proposed deal, the FCC decided to "stop the clock" on its 180-day review of the deal earlier this month, giving regulators more time to consider the potential impact of the deal on consumers and under-served communities.  Elected officials, consumer advocacy organizations, civil rights organizations, smaller cable providers, telecom workers and individual consumers have formed coalitions in cities across the Northeast where Verizon has failed to build its high-speed FiOS network to oppose the Verizon Wireless/Big Cable deal.

Earlier this year, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino detailed the economic dangers of the deal for urban areas in comments to the FCC and the Maryland Chapter of the NAACP filed comments to the FCC explaining how concentrated power in the industry would put poor and minority communities at further economic disadvantage.  Last week, Senator Kohl added his voice, raising concerns in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Attorney General Eric Holder that the company will lose incentives to bring its high-speed fiber optic FiOS service to new areas if the deal between Verizon Wireless and large cable operators goes through.

For maps of gaps in FiOS service in Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo and Syracuse--compared with surrounding suburban areas with access-- please see the links below.

See maps of FiOs service below.


CWA FCC Filing: Verizon Wireless deal widens digital divide (news release, June 1, 2012)


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