CWA says Verizon has neglected Maryland's copper network

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is being called to task about its copper network in Maryland by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, which has filed a letter with the state's Public Service Commission to investigate the quality of the telco's copper network.

CWA said in its letter that it examined Verizon's network equipment in areas of Maryland where it has not built out FTTH FiOS service and only offers copper-based DSL and POTS voice services.

In its investigation (PDF), the CWA reported there are a number locations "that are so damaged as to impact service quality." Amongst the various issues it cited were poles that were damaged, unsecured and broken, damaged and exposed cable and splice terminals, bypassed damaged cable, and equipment that shows evidence of damage caused by animals.  

CWA said in a statement that "Verizon's systemic underinvestment in its traditional landline network violates the terms of the alternative form of regulation that the company is currently operating under."

Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman, told FierceTelecom that the CWA's report is nothing more than a way to distract its contract negotiations with the union.

"We believe the CWA's filing in Maryland is an agenda-driven attempt by the Union to try and divert attention from our on-going contract negotiations," Young said. "As we've said over and over again, union leaders have an ill-advised pattern of creating campaigns filled with mischaracterizations and inaccurate statements. This is another example of that same, old broken record."

Young added that the telco has continued to make neccessary upgrades and repairs on its existing wireline networks in Maryland and other parts of its territory.

"The truth is that Verizon continues to make very substantial investments in its wireline network each year -- a total of $5.8 billion in 2014 and $3.4 billion, so far, in 2015," Young said. "If there's an issue that needs to be addressed, we will look into it and fix it, if necessary."

Maryland is one of several states where the CWA, which is in the process of negotiating a new wireline labor contract with Verizon, has asked regulators to look into the condition of Verizon's existing facilities.

CWA has also petitioned the Pennsylvania Utility Commission to investigate what it claims are unsafe conditions at a number of the telco's outside plant facilities.

Similar to the investigation it launched in Maryland, CWA claimed that it cited similar issues in Pennsylvania, including damaged poles, unattached network terminals and cables hanging dangerously low due to broken lashings that have not been replaced.

In addition to Maryland and Pennsylvania, the union asked that federal and state regulators in the 11 states where Verizon operates wireline networks investigate its claims that the telco is not performing necessary repairs and upkeep on its copper landline networks. It has filed letters to regulators in six states and Washington, D.C.

The call for these investigations emerged after Verizon said in letter to the FCC that it had only spent $200 million over the last 7 years to maintain its copper landline network in Maryland and ten other states and the District of Columbia.  

Verizon has dismissed the CWA's claims, saying it misinterpreted a statement it made in a July letter to the FCC about how much it invests on its copper network.

 For more:
- see the release

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This article was updated on Nov. 17 with additional information from Verizon.