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Verizon?s tangled lines

Verizon’s intense drive for profits is infuriating subscribers in the New York area. In two linked actions, Verizon seems determined to give customers worse, not better service – and consumers aren’t happy.

In Mantoloking, a Jersey Shore town which is still recovering from the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy, Verizon has refused to rebuild the copper landline service. According to The New York Times, “Verizon said it was too expensive to replace Mantoloking’s traditional copper-line phone network... and instead installed Voice Link, a wireless service it insisted was better.”

Verizon attempted this tactic on Fire Island, New York, and the outcry has forced the company to reverse course – for now.

According to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, “The vision I have is we are going into the copper plant areas and every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper. And in the areas that are more rural and sparsely populated, we have got (wireless) LTE built that will handle all those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there."

If Verizon were to replace its copper network with fiber, that would be an improvement. Fiber is higher-capacity and resists water damage better than corrodible copper. But another story indicates that in New York City, as in many other areas, Verizon is not following through on its FiOS promises.

The Verge posted a story on October 10 whose title says it all: A few feet from failure: why Verizon FiOS in New York is a sad joke. As Verge writer Adrianne Jeffries reports:

“Verizon has a contract with the city that promises fiber access in every neighborhood. However, the availability of the service has been frustratingly spotty, skipping buildings, floors, and blocks without clear explanation.”

When Verizon signed its franchise agreement with New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT) in 2008, the company avowed it would  “get fiber access to all New York City residents by the summer of 2014.”

But NYC Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill deBlasio concluded that just about half of the city’s residents can get FiOS. Certainly not all... and probably not most.

Verizon’s long-term strategy is to cross-market with cable firms and get out of the landline business where it has not built FiOS. That's one-third of the population in its traditional footprint, and includes such urban areas as Boston, Buffalo, Baltimore, Syracuse, and Albany. Although wireless may get Verizon a better return on investment dollar, it’s leaving America poorer. High-speed wired broadband is necessary for the video and data-rich communications we use today and in the future.

The result of Verizon’s actions are not encouraging. Media expert Susan Crawford said we need to wake up to the implications of Verizon’s pullback from landlines in non-FiOS areas. “What Americans don’t seem to recognize is that we’re slipping into third world status when it comes to this basic infrastructure,” she says.

Speed Matters urges Verizon to remain dedicated to expand FiOS and to maintain the copper until it’s replaced by FiOS. Consumers, workers and the nation as a whole need this high-speed service.

On a New Jersey Islet, Twilight of the Landline (NY Times, Oct. 14, 2013)

Verizon will build out FiOS on Fire Island (Speed Matters, Sep. 9, 2013)

A few feet from failure: why Verizon FiOS in New York is a sad joke (The Verge, Oct. 10, 2013)